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1 SAN DlEfe. 
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(newly-enlarged and complete edition) 





First Edition, June i88g ; Second Edition, December 1890 
Third Edition, November 1893 ; Fourth Edition, yii/y 1895 
Fifth Edition, September 1897 ; Sixth Edition, October 1900 
Seventh Edition, July 1902 ; Eighth Edition, March 1903 
Ninth Edition, January 1906 ; Tenth Edition, January 1908 
Eleventh Edition, October 1910 ; Twelfth Edition, Dec. 1912 
Thirteenth Edition, ^H^.1914 ; Fourteenth Edition, Juncigit 
Fifteenth Edition, Sept. igiy ; Complete Edition, Jan. 1921 

(ytf// rights reserved) 



IN looking over this volume, first published 
in 1889, with a view to a final Edition, 
I am glad to note that after all there is not 
much in it requiring alteration. Considering that 
the original issue took place more than 30 years 
ago, I had thought that the great changes in 
scientific and philosophic thought which have 
taken place during that period would probably 
have rendered " out of date " a good deal of the 
book. ' 

As a matter of fact, the first paper — that on 
Civilisation — was given as a lecture before the 
Fabian Society, in 1888 ; and I shall not easily 
forget the furious attacks which were made upon 
it on that occasion. The book — published as 
a whole in 1889 — came in for a very similar re- 
ception from the press-critics. They slated it 
to the top of their bent — except in those not 
unfrequent cases when they ignored it as almost 
beneath notice. The whole trend of the thought 
of the time was against its conclusions ; and it 
is perhaps worth while to recall these facts in 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

order to measure how far we have travelled in 
these 30 years. For to-day (I think we may 
say) these conclusions are generally admitted as 
correct ; and the views which seemed so hazarded 
and precarious at the earlier date are now fairly 
accepted and established. 

The word Civilisation has undoubtedly during 
this period suffered an ominous change of color. 
It is no longer an easy term denoting all that is 
ideal and delightful in social life, but on the con- 
trary, carries with it a sense of doubt and of cri- 
ticism, as of something that is by no means accepted 
yet, but is rather on its trial — if not actually con- 
demned ! 

I am sorry to note, however, that the suggestion 
made more than once in the course of my book — 
namely that the term (Civilisation) should properly 
be given an historical instead of ideal value, as 
applicable to a certain period only in the history 
of each people, has not yet been generally taken 
up. Yet a paper by some more competent person 
than myself on the definite marks and signs of 
the civilisation-period in History — their first 
appearance in the course of human progress and 
evolution, and their probable disappearance again 
at a later stage — would be greatly interesting and 

My little essay on this subject was written at 
the time of its composition with a good deal of 
imaginative elan \ and is of course open to criticism 
on that side, as being mainly enthusiastic in char- 
acter and only slenderly supported by exact data^ 


proofs, historical illustrations, analogies, and so 
forth. But to largely alter or amend the essay 
without seriously crippling it would be impossible ; 
and though the form may be hurried or inade- 
quate, yet as far as the actual contents and con- 
clusions are concerned I still adhere to them 
absolutely, and believe that time will show them 
to be fully justified. 

With regard to my views on Modern Science 
the last quarter of a century has curiously corro- 
borated them. For while on the one hand — as 
expected — the progress in actual discovery and 
application of observed facts has been enormous, 
the theories on the other hand about all these things 
have receded more and more into the background, 
and have passed almost out of sight. While 
knowing, for instance, infinitely more about elec- 
trical actions and adaptations than we did, we 
seem to be if anything further off than ever from 
any valid theory of what Electricity is. The same 
with regard to Heat and Light, to Astronomical, 
Biological and Geological " laws," and so forth. 
On such matters Modern Science is on the verge 
of confessing itself bankrupt, but not wishing 
to do that, it keeps a discreet silence. 

The Atom, which I ventured (to the disgust of 
my scientific friends) to make fun of 30 years 
ago, has now exploded of itself as thoroughly as 
a German *' coal-box " ; and the fixed Chemical 
Elements of older days have of late dissolved 
into protean vapours and emanations, ions and 
electrons, impossible to follow through their end- 

Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

less transformations. As to the numerous ** Laws 
of Nature " which in the nineteenth century 
we were just about to establish for all eternity, 
it is only with the greatest difficulty that any of 
these can now be discovered — most of them 
having got secreted away into the darkness of 
ancient text-books : where they lead forlorn and 
sightless existences, like the fish in the caves of 

Here again — in my chapters on Science — 
though some expressions remain which are now 
out of date, I have thought it best to leave them 
as originally written : the meanings and general 
conclusions being still valid and as they were. 
It will be seen that the general drift of these chapters 
is to point the moral that the true field of science 
is to be found in Life, and that the best way to 
knozv things is to experience their meaning and 
to identify oneself with them through Action. 
From a study on these principles will ultimately 
emerge a Science truly humane and creative, 
masterful, and capable of building a true home for 
men — instead of the feverish, spectral and self- 
deluding thing which has usurped the name up 
to now. 

Something the same will happen with the con- 
ception of Morality. The abstract codes on this 
subject, which have wrought so much havoc by 
their fatal intrusion on the field of human Life, 
are rapidly fliding away. These ghosts, like the 
ghosts of Nature's " Laws," are receiving their 
quietus. And the general outline which was sug- 



gested in ** The Defence of Criminals " has now 
been traced more positively in the chapter on 
** The New Morality " inserted at the end of 
the present volume. Morality has at last to become 
truly human, and the real expression of our organic 
need. Man has to be liberated from the cramps 
and suppressions and fixations which have hitherto 
paralysed him in the moral field. He has to 
emerge from the swathing bands of his pupal stage 
into the free air of heaven, and to become in 
the highest sense self-determining and creative. 

Thus three things, (i) the realisation of a new 
order of Society, in closest touch with Nature, 
and in which the diseases of class-domination and 
Parasitism will have finally ceased ; (2) the realisa- 
tion of a Science which will no longer be a mere 
thing of the brain, but a part of Actual Life ; 
and (3) the realisation of a Morality which will 
signalise and express the vital and organic unity 
of man with his fellows — these three things will 
become the heralds of a new era of humanity — 
an era which will possibly prefer not to call itself 
by the name of Civilisation. 

In order to corroborate and confirm the first 
paper in the book an Appendix has now been 
added containing notes and data on the life and 
customs of many " uncivilised " peoples ; for 
much of which Appendix I am indebted to the 
assistance of my widely-read and resourceful 
friend, E. Bertram Lloyd. 

E. C. 

December f 1920. 




Preface to Complete Edition . . .7 

Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure . . 15 

A^odern Science : A Criticism . . -79 

The Science of the Future : A Forecast . 120 

Defence of Criminals: A Criticism of Morality 143 

Exfoliation: Lamarck versus Darwin . .181 

Custom ...... 206 

A Rational and Humane Science . .219 

The New Morality .... 243 

Appendix — being Notes on Some of the 
Characteristics and Customs of Pre- 
Civilised Peoples .... 265 




The friendly and flowing savage, who is he ? Is he waiting 
for civilisation, or is he past it, and mastering it ? — Whitman. 

"TTTTE find ourselves to-day in the midst of a 
\X/ somewhat peculiar state of society, which 
W we call Civilisation, but which even to 
the most optimistic among us does not seem al- 
together desirable. Some of us, indeed, are 
inclined to think that it is a kind of disease which 
the various races of man have to pass through — 
as children pass through measles or whooping 
cough ; but if it is a disease, there is this serious 
consideration to be made, that while History tells 
us of many nations that have been attacked by it, 
of many that have succumbed to it, and of some 
that are still in the throes of it, we know of no 
single case in which a nation has fairly recovered 
from and passed through it to a more normal 
and healthy condition. In other words the 
development of human society has never yet 
(that we know of) passed beyond a certain definite 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

and apparently final stage in the process we call 
Civilisation ; at that stage it has always succumbed 
or been arrested. 

Of. course it may at first sound extravagant 
to use the word disease in connection with Civilisa- 
tion at all, but a little thought should show that 
the association is not ill-grounded. To take the 
matter on its physical side first, I find that in 
Mullhall's Dictionary of Statistics (1884) the number 
of accredited doctors and surgeons in the United 
Kingdom is put at over 23,000. If the extent 
of the national sickness is such that we require 
23,000 medical men to attend to us, it must surely 
be rather serious ! And they do not cure us. 
Wherever we look to-day, in mansion or in slum, 
we see the features and hear the complaints of 
ill-health ; the difficulty is really to find a healthy 
person. The state of the modern civilised man in 
this respect — our coughs, colds, mufflers, dread of 
a waft of chill air, &c. — is anything but creditable, 
and it seems to be the fact that, notwithstanding 
all our libraries of medical science, our know- 
ledges, arts, and appliances of life, we are actually 
less capable of taking care of ourselves than the 
animals are. Indeed, talking of animals, we are 
— as Shelley I think points out — fast depraving 
the domestic breeds. The cow, the horse, the sheep, 
and even the confiding pussy-cat, are becoming 
ever more and more subject to disease, and are 
liable to ills which in their wilder state they knew 
not of. And finally the savage races of the earth 
do not escape the baneful influence. Wherever 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

Civilisation touches them, they die like flies from 
the small-pox, drink, and worse evils it brings along 
with it, and often its mere contact is sufficient to 
destroy whole races. 

But the word Disease is applicable to our social 
as well as to our physical condition. For as in 
the body disease arises from the loss of the physical 
unity which constitutes Health, and so takes the 
form of warfare or discord between the various 
parts, or of the abnormal development of individual 
organs, or the consumption of the system by pre- 
datory germs and growths ; so in our modern 
life we find the unity gone which constitutes 
true society, and in its place warfare of classes 
and individuals, abnormal development of some 
to the detriment of others, and consumption of 
the organism by masses of social parasites. If 
the word disease is applicable anywhere, I should 
say it is — both in its direct and its derived sense — 
to the civilised societies of to-day. 

Again, mentally, is not our condition most 
unsatisfactory ? I am not alluding to the number 
and importance of the lunatic asylums which 
cover our land, nor to the fact that maladies of 
the brain and nervous system are now so common; 
but to the strange sense of mental unrest which 
marks our populations, and which amply justifies 
Ruskin's cutting epigram : that our two objects 
in life are, " Whatever we have — to get more ; 
and wherever we are — to go somewhere else." 
This sense of unrest, of disease, penetrates down 
even into the deepest regions of man's being — into 

17 B 

Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

his moral nature — disclosing itself there, as it 
has done in all nations notably at the time of their 
full civilisation, as the sense of Sin.^ All down 
the Christian centuries we find this strange sense 
of inward strife and discord developed, in marked 
contrast to the naive insouciance of the pagan 
and primitive world ; and, what is strangest, we 
even find people glorying in this consciousness 
— which, while it may be the harbinger of better 
things to come, is and can be in itself only the 
evidence of loss of unity, and therefore of ill-health, 
in the very centre of human life. 

Of course we are aware with regard to Civilisa- 
tion that the word is sometimes used in a kind of 
ideal sense, as to indicate a state of future culture 
towards which we are tending — the implied assump- 
tion being that a sufficiently long course of top 
hats and telephones will in the end bring us to 
this ideal condition ; while any little drawbacks 
in the process, such as we have just pointed out, 
are explained as being merely accidental and 
temporary. Men sometimes speak of civilising 
and ennobling influences as if the two terms were 
interchangeable, and of course if they like to use 
the word Civilisation in this sense they have a 
right to ; but whether the actual tendencies of 
modern life taken in the mass are ennobling (ex- 
cept in a quite indirect way hereafter to be dwelt 
upon) is, to say the least, a doubtful question. 

' It is interesting to note that the " sense of Sin " seems now 
(1920) to have nearly passed away. And this fact probably 
mdicates a considerable impending change in our Social Order. 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

Any one who would get an idea of the glorious 
being that is as a matter of fact being turned out 
by the present process should read Mr. Kay 
Robinson's article in the Nineteenth Century for 
May, 1883, in which he prophesies (quite solemnly 
and in the name of science) that the human being 
of the future will be a toothless, bald, toeless crea- 
ture with flaccid muscles and limbs almost in- 
capable of locomotion 1 

Perhaps it is safer on the whole not to use the 
v/ord Civilisation in such ideal sense, but to limit 
its use (as is done to-day by all writers on primitive 
society) to a definite historical stage through which 
the various nations pass, and in which we actually 
find ourselves at the present time. Though there 
is of course a difficulty in marking the commence- 
ment of any period of historical evolution very 
definitely, yet all students of this subject agree 
that the growth of property and the ideas and 
institutions flowing from it did at a certain point 
bring about such a change in the structure of 
human society that the new stage might fairly be 
distinguished from the earlier stages of Savagery 
and Barbarism by a separate term. The growth 
of Wealth, it is shown, and with it the conception 
of Private Property, brought on certain very definite 
new forms of social life ; it destroyed the ancient 
system of society based upon the gens^ that is, 
a society of equals founded upon blood-relationship, 
and introduced a society of classes founded upon 
differences of material possession ; it destroyed 
the ancient system of mother-right and inheritance 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

through the female line, and turned the woman 
into the property of the man ; it brought with 
it private ownership of land, and so created a class 
of landless aliens, and a whole system of rent, 
mortgage, interest, etc. ; it introduced slavery, 
serfdom and wage-labour, which are only various 
forms of the dominance of one class over another ; 
and to rivet these authorities it created the State 
and the policeman. Every race that we know, 
that has become what we call civilised, has passed 
through these changes ; and though the details 
may vary and have varied a little, the main order 
of change has been practically the same in all cases. 
We are justified therefore in calling Civilisation 
a historical stage, whose commencement dates 
roughly from the division of society into classes 
founded on property and the adoption of class- 
government. Lewis Morgan in his Ancient Society 
adds the invention of writing and the consequent 
adoption of written History and written Law ; 
Engels in his Ursprung der Familie, des Privat- 
eigenthums und des Staats points out the im.- 
portance of the appearance of the Merchant, 
even in his most primitive form, as a mark 
of the civilisation-period ; while the French 
writers of the last century made a good point in 
inventing the term nations policees (policemanised 
nations) as a substitute for civilised nations ; for 
perhaps there is no better or more universal 
mark of the period we are considering, and of its 
social degradation, than the appearance of the 
crawling phenomenon in question. [Imagine the 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

rage of any decent North American Indians if 
they had been told they required -policemen to 
keep them in order !] 

If we take this historical definition of Civilisation, 
we shall see that our English Civilisation began 
hardly more than a thousand years ago, and even 
so the remains of the more primitive society lasted 
long after that. In the case of Rome — if we 
reckon from the later times of the early kings 
down to the fall of Rome — we have again about a 
thousand years. The Jewish civilisation from David 
and Solomon downwards lasted — with breaks — 
somewhat over a thousand years ; the Greek 
civilisation less ; the series of Egyptian civilisa- 
tions which we can now distinguish lasted alto- 
gether very much longer ; but the important points 
to see are, first, that the process has been quite 
similar in character in these various (and numerous 
other) cases,^ quite as similar in fact as the course 
of the same disease in various persons ; and 
secondly that in no case, as said before, has any 
nation come through and passed beyond this stage ; 
but that in most cases it has succumbed soon after 
the main symptoms had been developed. 

But it will be said, It may be true that Civilisa- 
tion regarded as a stage of human history presents 
some features of disease ; but is there any reason 
for supposing that disease in some form or other 
was any less present in the previous stage — that of 
Barbarism } To which I reply, I think there is 

I For proof I must refer the reader to Engels, or to his own 
studies of history. 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

good reason. Without committing ourselves to 
the unlikely theory that the " noble savage " was 
an ideal human being physically or in any other 
respect, and while certain that in many points he 
was decidedly inferior to the civilised man, I think 
we must allow him the superiority in some directions ; 
and one of these was his comparative freedom from 
disease. Lewis Morgan, who grew up among 
the Iroquois Indians, and who probably knew 
the North American natives as well as any white 
man has ever done, says (in his Ancient Society^ 
p. 45), ** Barbarism ends with the production of 
grand Barbarians." And though there are no 
native races on the earth to-day who are actually 
in the latest and most advanced stage of Barbarism ; ^ 
yet, if we take the most advanced tribes that we 
know of — such as the said Iroquois Indians of 
twenty or thirty years ago, some of the Kaffir 
tribes round Lake Nyassa in Africa, now (and 
possibly for a few years more) comparatively 
untouched by civilisation, or the tribes along the 
river Uaupes, thirty or forty years back, of Wallace's 
Travels on the Amazon — all tribes in what Morgan 
would call the middle stage of Barbarism — we 
undoubtedly in each case discover a fine and (which 
is our point here) healthy people. Captain Cook 
in his first Voyage says of the natives of Otaheite, 
** We saw no critical disease during our stay upon 
the island, and but few instances of sickness, which 
were accidental fits of the colic ; " and, later on, 

2 Say like the Homeric Greeks, or the Spartans of the Lycurgus 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

of the New Zealanders, " They enjoy perfect 
and uninterrupted health. In all our visits to 
their towns, where young and old, men and women, 
crowded about us. . . . we never saw a single person 
who appeared to have any bodily complaint, nor 
among the numbers we have seen naked did we 
once perceive the slightest eruption upon the 
skin, or any marks that an eruption had left behind." 
These are pretty strong words. Of course diseases 
exist among such peoples, even where they have 
never been in contact with civilisation, but I think 
we may say that among the higher types of savages 
they are rarer, and nothing like so various and 
so prevalent as they are in our modern life ; while 
the power of recovery from wounds (which are of 
course the most frequent form of disablement) 
is generally admitted to be something astonishing. 
Speaking of the Kaffirs, J. G. Wood says, '* Their 
state of health enables them to survive injuries 
which would be almost instantly fatal to any 
civilised European." Mr. Frank Oates in his 
Diary ^ mentions the case of a man who was con- 
demned to death by the king. He was hacked 
down with axes, and left for dead. " What 
must have been intended for the coup de grace 
was a cut in the back of the head, which had 
chipped a large piece out of the skull, and must 
have been meant to cut the spinal cord where it 
joins the brain. It had, however, been made a 
little higher than this, but had left such a wound 
as I should have thought that no one could have 
» MatabeU Land and the Victoria Falls, p. 209. 

Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

survived . . . when I held the lanthorn to investigate 
the wound I started back in amazement to see a 
hole at the base of the skull, perhaps two inches 
long and an inch and a half wide, and I will not 
venture to say how deep, but the depth too must 
have been an affair of inches. Of course this 
hole penetrated into the substance of the brain, 
and probably for some distance. I dare say a 
mouse could have sat in it." Yet the man was 
not so much disconcerted. Like Old King Cole, 
*' He asked for a pipe and a drink of brandy," 
and ultimately made a perfect recovery ! Of 
course it might be said that such a story only 
proves the lowness of organisation of the brains 
of savages ; but to the Kaffirs at any rate this would 
not apply ; they are a quick-witted race, with 
large brains, and exceedingly acute in argument, 
as Colenso found to his cost. Another point 
which indicates superabundant health is the 
amazing animal spirits of these native races ! 
The shouting, singing, dancing kept up nights 
long among the Kaffirs are exhausting merely 
to witness, while the graver North American 
Indian exhibits a corresponding power of life in 
his eagerness for battle or his stoic resistance of 
pain. I 

Similarly when we come to consider the social 

I A similar physical liealth and power of life are also developed 
among Europeans who have lived for long periods in more native 
conditions. It is not to our race, which is probably superior to 
any in capacity, but to the state in which we live that we must 
ascribe our defect in this particular matter. 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

life of the wilder races — however rudimentary 
and undeveloped it may be — the almost universal 
testimony of students and travelers is that within 
its limits it is more harmonious and compact than 
that of the civilised nations. The members of 
the tribe are not organically at warfare with each 
other ; society is not divided into classes which 
prey upon each other ; nor is it consumed by para- 
sites. There is more true social unity, less of 
disease. Though the customs of each tribe are 
rigid, absurd, and often frightfully cruel, ^ and 
though all outsiders are liable to be regarded as 
enemies, yet within those limits the members live 
peacefully together — their pursuits, their work, 
are undertaken in common, thieving and violence 
are rare, social feeling and community of interest 
are strong. ** In their own bands Indians are 
perfectly honest. In all my intercourse with them 
1 have heard of not over half-a-dozen cases of such 
theft. But this wonderfully exceptional honesty 
extends no further than to the members of his 
immediate band. To all outside of it, the Indian 
is not only one of the most arrant thieves in the 
world, but this quality or faculty is held in the 
highest estimation." (Dodge, p. 64.) If a man 
set out on a journey (this among the Kaffirs) 
" he need not trouble himself about provisions, 
for he is sure to fall in with some hut, or per- 
haps a village, and is equally sure of obtain- 
ing both food and shelter." 2 "I have lived," 

1 See Col, Dodge's Our Wild Indians. 

2 Wood's Natural History of Man. 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

says A. R. Wallace in his Malay Archipelago 
vol. ii. p. 460)5 " with communities in South 
America and the East, who have no laws or law 
courts, but the public opinion of the village . . . 
yet each man scrupulously respects the rights of 
his fellows, and any infraction of those rights 
rarely takes place. In such a community all are 
nearly equal. There are none of those wide dis- 
tinctions of education and ignorance, wealth and 
poverty, master and servant, which are the pro- 
duct of our civilisation." Indeed this community 
of life in the early societies, this absence of division 
into classes, and of the contrast between rich 
and poor, is now admitted on all sides as a marked 
feature of difference between the conditions of 
the primitive and of civilised man.^ 

Lastly, with regard to the mental condition of 
the Barbarian, probably no one will be found to 
dispute the contention that he is more easy-minded 
and that his consciousness of Sin is less developed 
than in his civilised brother. Our unrest is the 
penalty we pay for our wider life. The missionary 
retires routed from the savage in whom he can 
awake no sense of his supreme wickedness. An 
American lady had a servant, a negro-woman, 
who on one occasion asked leave of absence for 
the next morning, saying she wished to attend the 
Holy Communion } " I have no objection," said 
the mistress, " to grant you leave ; but do you 
think you ought to attend Communion } You 
know you have never said you were sorry about 
' See Appendix. 

Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

that goose you stole last week." " Lor' missus, * 
replied the woman, " do ye think I'd let an old 
goose stand betwixt me and my Blessed Lord 
and Master ? " But joking apart, and however 
necessary for man's ultimate evolution may be 
the temporary development of this consciousness 
of Sin, we cannot help seeing that the condition 
of the mind in which it is absent is the most dis- 
tinctively healthy ; nor can it be concealed that 
some of the greatest works of Art have been pro- 
duced by people like the earlier Greeks, in whom 
it was absent ; and could not possibly have been 
produced where it was strongly developed. 

Though, as already said, the latest stage of Bar- 
barism, i.e., that just preceding Civilisation, is 
unrepresented on the earth to-day, yet we have 
in the Homeric and other dawn-literature of the 
various nations indirect records of this stage; and 
these records assure us of a condition of man very 
similar to, though somewhat more developed than, 
the condition of the existing races I have mentioned 
above. Besides this, we have in the numerous 
traditions of the Golden Age,i legends of the 
Fall, etc., a curious fact which suggests to us that 
a great number of races in advancing towards 
Civilisation were conscious at some point or other 
of having lost a primitive condition of ease and 
contentment, and that they embodied this conscious- 
ness, with poetical adornment and licence, in 
imaginative legends of the earlier Paradise. Some 
people indeed, seeing the universality of these 
I See Note at end of this chapter. 

Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

stories, and the remarkable fragments of wisdom 
embedded in them and other extremely ancient 
myths and writings, have supposed that there 
really was a general pre-historic Eden-garden or 
Atlantis ; but the necessities of the case hardly 
seem to compel this supposition. That each 
human soul, however, bears within itself some kind 
of reminiscence of a more harmonious and perfect 
state of being, which it has at some time experienced, 
seems to me a conclusion difficult to avoid ; and 
this by itself might give rise to manifold traditions 
and myths. 


However all this may be, the question immedi- 
ately before us — having established the more 
healthy, though more limited, condition of the 
pre-civilisation peoples — is, why this lapse or 
fall ? What is the meaning of this manifold 
and intensified manifestation of Disease — physical, 
social, intellectual, and moral ? what is its place 
and part in the great whole of human evolution ? 

And this involves us in a digression, which 
must occupy a few pages, on the nature of Health. 

When we come to analyse the conception of 
Disease, physical or mental, in society or in the 
individual, it evidently means, as already hinted 
once or twice, loss of unity. Health, therefore, 
should mean unity, and it is curious that the 
history of the word entirely corroborates this idea. 
As is well known, the words health, whole, holy, 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

are from the same stock ; and they indicate to us the 
fact that far back in the past those who created this 
group of words had a conception of the meaning 
of Health very different from ours, and which 
they embodied unconsciously in the word itself 
and its strange relatives. 

These are, for instance, and among others : 
heal, hallow, hale, holy, whole, wholesome ; 
German heilig, Heiland (the Saviour) ; Latin 
salus (as in salutation, salvation) ; Greek kalos ; 
also compare hail ! a salutation, and, less certainly 
connected, the root hal^ to breathe, as in inhale, 
exhale — French haleine — Italian and French alma 
and ame (the soul) ; compare the Latin spiritus, 
spirit or breath, and Sanskrit atman, breath or 

Wholeness, holiness ..." if thine eye be single, 
thy whole body shall be full of light." ..." thy 
faith hath made thee whole y 

The idea seems to be a positive one — a condition 
of the body in which it is an entirety, a unity — 
a central force maintaining that condition ; and 
disease being the break-up — or break-down — 
of that entirety into multiplicity. 

The peculiarity about our modern conception 
of Health is that it seems to be a purely negative 
one. So impressed are we by the myriad presence 
of Disease — so numerous its dangers, so sudden 
and unforetellable its attacks — that we have come 
to look upon health as the mere absence of the 
same. As a solitary spy picks his way through a 
hostile camp at night, sees the enemy sitting round 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

his fires, and trembles at the crackHng of a twig 
beneath his feet — so the traveller through this 
world, comforter in one hand and physic-bottle 
in the other, must pick his way, fearful lest at 
any time he disturb the sleeping legions of death — 
thrice blessed if by any means, steering now to 
the right and now to the left, and thinking only 
of his personal safety, he pass by without discovery 
to the other side. 

Health with us is a negative thing. It is a 
neutralisation of opposing dangers. It is to be 
neither rheumatic nor gouty, consumptive nor 
bilious, to be untroubled by head-ache, back-ache, 
heart-ache, or any of the " thousand natural shocks 
that flesh is heir to." These are the realities. 
Health is the mere negation of them. 

The modern notion, and which has evidently 
in a very subtle way penetrated the whole thought 
of to-day, is that the essential fact of life is the 
existence of innumerable external forces, which, 
by a very delicate balance and difficult to maintain, 
concur to produce Man — who in consequence may 
at any moment be destroyed again by the non- 
concurrence of those forces. The older notion 
apparently is that the essential fact of life is Man 
himself ; and that the external forces, so-called, 
are in some way subsidiary to this fact — that they 
may aid his expression or manifestation, or that 
they may hinder it, but that they can neither create j 
nor annihilate the Man. Probably both ways of | 
looking at the subject are important ; there is a I 
man that can be destroyed, and there is a man that } 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

cannot be destroyed. The old words, soul and 
body, indicate this contrast ; but like all words they 
are subject to the defect that they are an attempt 
to draw a line where no line can ultimately be 
drawn ; they mark a contrast where, in fact, there 
is only continuity — for between the little mortal 
man who dwells here and now, and the divine and 
universal Man who also forms a part of our conscious- 
ness, is there not a perfect gradation of being, 
and where (if anywhere) is there a gulf fixed ? 
Together they form a unit, and each is necessary 
to the other : the first cannot do without the second, 
and the second cannot get along at all without the 
first. To use the words of Angelus Silesius 
(quoted by Schopenhauer), " Ich weiss dass ohne 
mich Gott nicht ein Nu kann leben." 

According then to the elder conception, and 
perhaps according to an elder experience, man, 
to be really healthy, must be a unit, an entirety — 
his more external and momentary self standing in 
some kind of filial relation to his more universal 
and incorruptible part — so that not only the remotest 
and outermost regions of the body, and all the 
assimilative, secretive, and other processes belonging 
thereto, but even the thoughts and passions of the 
mind itself, stand in direct and clear relationship 
to it, the final and absolute transparency of the 
mortal creature. And thus this divinity in each 
creature, being that which constitutes it and causes 
it to cohere together, was conceived of as that crea- 
ture's saviour, healer — healer of wounds of body 
and wounds of heart — the Man within the man, 


civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

whom it was not only possible to know, but whom 
to know and be united with was the alone salva- 
tion. This, I take it, was the law of health — and 
of holiness — as accepted at some elder time of 
human history, and by us seen as thro' a glass 

And the condition of disease, and of sin, under 
the same view, was the reverse of this. Enfeeble- 
ment, obscuration, duplicity — the central radiation 
blocked ; lesser and insubordinate centres establish- 
ing and asserting themselves as against it ; division, 
discord, possession by devils. 

Thus in the body, the establishment of an in- 
subordinate centre — a boil, a tumor, the introduc- 
tion and spread of a germ with innumerable pro- 
geny throughout the system, the enlargement 
out of all reason of an existing organ — means 
disease. In the mind, disease begins when any 
passion asserts itself as an independent centre of 
thought and action. The condition of health 
in the mind is loyalty to the divine Man within it.^ 
But if loyalty to money become an independent 
centre of life, or greed of knowledge, or of fame, 
or of drink ; jealousy, lust, the love of approbation ; 
or mere following after any so-called virtue for 
itself — purity, humility, consistency, or what not — 
these may grow to seriously endanger the other. 
They are, or should be, subordinates ; and though 

I No words or theory even of morality can express or formulate 
tliis — no enthronement of any virtue can take its place ; for all 
virtue enthroned before our humanity becomes vice, and worse 
than vice. 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

over a long period their insubordination may be 
a necessary condition of human progress, yet during 
all such time they are at war with each other and 
with the central Will ; the man is torn and tor- 
mented, and is not happy. 

And when I speak thus separately of the mind 
and body, it must be remembered, as already 
said, that there is no strict line between them ; 
but probably every affection or passion of the 
mind has its correlative in the condition of the 
body — though this latter may or may not be 
easily observable. Gluttony is a fever of the 
digestive apparatus. What is a taint in the mind 
is also a taint in the body. The stomach has 
started the original idea of becoming itself the 
centre of the human system. The sexual organs 
may start a similar idea. Here are distinct threats, 
menaces made against the central authority — against 
the Man himself. For the man must rule or 
disappear ; it is impossible to imagine a man 
presided over by a Stomach — a walking Stomach, 
using hands, feet, and all other members merely 
to carry it from place to place, and serve its assimila- 
tive mania. We call such a one an Hog. [And 
thus in the theory of Evolution we see the place 
of the hog, and all other animals, as fore-runners 
or off-shoots of special faculties in Man, and why 
the true man, and rightly, has authority over all 
animals, and can alone give them their place in 

So of the Brain, or any other organ ; for the 
Man is no organ, resides in no organ, but is the 

33 c 

Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

central life ruling and radiating among all organs, 
and assigning them their arts to play. 

Disease then, in body or mind, is from this 
point of view the break-up of its unity, its entirety, 
into multiplicity. It is the abeyance of a central 
power, and the growth of insubordinate centres — 
life in each creature being conceived of as a con- 
tinual exercise of energy or conquest, by which 
external or antagonistic forces (and organisms) 
are brought into subjection and compelled into 
the service of the creature, or are thrown off as 
harmful to it. Thus, by way of illustration, we 
find that plants or animals, when in good health, 
have a remarkable power of throwing off the attacks 
of any parasites which incline to infest them ; 
while those that are weakly are very soon eaten 
up by the same. A rose-tree, for instance, brought 
indoors, will soon fall a prey to the aphis — though 
when hardened out of doors the pest makes next 
to no impression on it. In dry seasons when the 
young turnip plants in the fields are weakly from 
want of water the entire crop is sometimes destroyed 
by the turnip fly, which then multiplies enormously ; 
but if a shower or two of rain come before much 
damage is done the plant will then grow vigorously, 
its tissues become more robust and resist the attacks 
of the fly, which in its turn dies. Late investiga- 
tions seem to show that one of the functions of the 
white corpuscles in the blood is to devour disease- 
germs and bacteria present in the circulation — thus 
absorbing these organisms into subjection to the 
central life of the body — and that with this object 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

they congregate in numbers toward any part of 
the body which is wounded or diseased. Or 
to take an example from society, it is clear enough 
that if our social life were really vivid and healthy, 
such parasitic products as the idle shareholder 
and the policeman above-mentioned would simply 
be impossible. The material on which they prey 
would not exist, and they would either perish 
or be transmuted into useful forms. It seems 
obvious in fact that life in any organism can only 
be maintained by some such processes as these — 
by which parasitic or infesting organisms are either 
thrown off or absorbed into subjection. To define 
the nature of the power which thus works towards 
and creates the distinctive unity of each organism 
may be difficult, is probably at present impossible, 
but that some such power exists we can hardly 
refuse to admit. Probably it is more a subject 
of the growth of our consciousness, than an object 
of external scientific investigation. 

In this view. Death is simply the loosening 
and termination of the action of this power — over 
certain regions of the organism ; a process by 
which, when these superficial parts become hardened 
and osseous, as in old age, or irreparably damaged, 
as in cases of accident, the inward being sloughs 
them off", and passes into other spheres. In the 
case of man there may be noble and there may be 
ignoble death, as there may be noble and ignoble 
life. The inward self, unable to maintain authority 
over the forces committed to its charge, declining 
from its high prerogative, swarmed over by parasites, 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

and fallen partially into the clutch of obscene 
foes, may at last with shame and torment be driven 
forth from the temple in which it ought to have 
been supreme. Or, having fulfilled a holy and 
wholesome time, having radiated divine life and 
love through all the channels of body and mind, 
and as a perfect workman uses his tools, so having 
with perfect mastery and nonchalance used all the 
materials committed to it, it may quietly and 
peacefully lay these down, and unchanged (absolutely 
unchanged to all but material eyes) pass on to other 
spheres appointed. 

And now a few words on the medical aspect 
of the subject. If we accept any theory (even 
remotely similar to that just indicated) to the effect 
that Health is a positive thing, and not a mere 
negation of disease, it becomes pretty clear that 
no mere investigation of the latter will enable us 
to find out what the former is, or bring us nearer 
to it. You might as well try to create the ebb 
and flow of the tides by an organised system of 

Turn your back upon the Sun and go forth into 
the wildernesses of space till you come to those 
limits where the rays of light, faint with distance, 
fall dim upon the confines of eternal darkness — 
and phantoms and shadows in the half-light are 
the product of the wavering conflict betwixt day 
and night — investigate these shadows, describe 
them, classify them, record the changes which 
take place in them, erect in vast libraries these 
records into a monument of human industry and 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

research ; so shall you be at the end as near to a 
knowledge and understanding of the sun itself — 
which all this time you have left behind you, and 
on which you have turned your back — as the 
investigators of disease are to a knowledge and 
understanding of what health is. The solar rays 
illumine the outer world and give to it its unity 
and entirety ; so in the inner world of each individual 
possibly is there another Sun, which illumines 
and gives unity to the man, and whose warmth 
and light would permeate his system. Wait 
upon the shining forth of this inward sun, give 
free access and welcome to its rays of love, and 
free passage for them into the common world 
around you, and it may be you will get to know 
more about health than all the books of medicine 
contain, or can tell you. 

Or to take the former simile : it is the central 
force of the Moon which acting on the great ocean 
makes all its waters one, and causes them to rise 
and fall in timely consent. But take your moon 
away ; hey 1 now the tide is flowing too far down 
this estuary ! Station your thousands with mops, 
but it breaks through in channel and runlet! 
Block it here, but it overflows in a neighboring 
bay ! Appoint an army of swabs there, but to 
what end ? The infinitest care along the fringe 
of this great sea can never do, with all imaginable 
dirt and confusion, what the central power does 
easily, and with unerring grace and providence. 

And so of the great (the vast and wonderful) 
ocean which ebbs and flows within a man — take 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

away the central guide — and not 20,000 doctors, 
each with 20,000 books to consult and 20,000 
phials of different contents to administer, could 
meet the myriad cases of disease which would 
ensue, or bolster up into " wholeness " the being 
from whom the single radiant unity had departed. 

Probably there has never been an age, nor any 
country (except Yankee-land ?) in which disease 
has been so generally prevalent as in England 
to-day ; and certainly there has never (with the 
same exception) been an age or country in which 
doctors have so swarmed, or in which medical 
science has been so powerful, in apparatus, in 
learning, in authority, and in actual organisation 
and number of adherents. How reconcile this con- 
tradiction — if indeed a contradiction it be ? 

But the fact is that medical science does not 
contradict disease — any more than laws abolish 
crime. Medical science — and doubtless for very 
good reasons — makes a fetish of disease, and 
dances around it. It is (as a rule) only seen where 
disease is ; it writes enormous tomes on disease ; 
it induces disease in animals (and even men) for 
the purpose of studying it ; it knows, to a marvelous 
extent, the symptoms of disease, its nature, its 
causes, its goings out and its comings in ; its 
eyes are perpetually fixed on disease, till disease 
(for it) becomes the main fact of the world and the 
main object of its worship. Even what is so grace- 
fully called Hygiene does not get beyond this 
negative attitude. And the world still waits for 
its Healer, who shall tell us — diseased and suffering 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

as we are — what health is, where it is to be found, 
whence it flows ; and who having touched this 
wonderful power within himself shall not rest 
till he has proclaimed and imparted it to men. 

No, medical science does not, in the main, 
contradict disease. The same cause (infidelity 
and decay of the central life in men) which creates 
disease and makes men liable to it, creates students 
and a science of the subject. The Moon^ having 
gone from over the waters, the good people rush 
forth with their mops ; and the untimely inunda- 
tions, and the mops and the mess and the pother, 
are all due to the same cause. 

As to the lodgment of disease, it is clear that this 
would take place easily in a disorganised system — 
just as a seditious adventurer would easily effect 
a landing, and would find insubordinate materials 
ready at hand for his use, in a land where the central 
government was weak. And as to the treatment 
of a disease so introduced there are obviously two 
methods : one is to reinforce the central power 
till it is sufficiently strong of itself to eject the 
insubordinate elements and restore order ; the 
other is to attack the malady from outside and if 
possible destroy it — (as by doses and decoctions) 
— independently of the inner vitality, and leaving 
that as it was before. The first method would 
seem the best, most durable and effective ; but 
it is difficult and slow. It consists in the adoption 

I It is curious that this word seems to have the same root as 
the word Man, the original idea apparently being Order, or 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

of a healthy life, bodily and mental, and will be 
spoken of later on. The second may be characterised 
as the medical method, and is valuable, or rather 
I should be inclined to say, will be valuable, when 
it has found its place, which is to be subsidiary 
to the first. It is too often, however, regarded as 
superior in importance, and in this way, though 
easy of application, has come perhaps to be productive 
of more harm than good. The disease may be 
broken down for the time being, but, the roots 
of it not being destroyed, it soon springs up again 
in the same or a new form, and the patient is as 
badly off as ever. 

The great positive force of Health, and the 
power which it has to expel disease from its neigh- 
borhood is a thing realised, I believe, by few persons. 
But it has been realised on earth, and will be realised 
again when the more squalid elements of our 
present-day civilisation have passed away. 


The result then of our digression is to show that 
Health — in body or mind — means unity, integra- 
tion as opposed to disintegration. In the animals 
we find this physical unity existing to a remarkable 
degree. An almost unerring instinct and selective 
power rules their actions and organisation. Thus 
a cat before it has fallen (say before it has become 
a very wheezy fireside pussy !) is in a sense perfect. 
The wonderful consent of its limbs as it runs or 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

leaps, the adaptation of its muscles, the exactness 
and inevitableness of its instincts, physical and 
afFectional ; its senses of sight and smell, its clean- 
liness, nicety as to food, motherly tact, the expression 
of its whole body when enraged, or when watching 
for prey — all these things are so to speak absolute 
and instantaneous — and fill one with admiration. 
The creature is '* whole " or in one piece : there 
is no mentionable conflict or division within it.^ 

Similarly with the other animals, and even with 
the early man himself. And so it would appear 
returning to our subject — that, if we accept the 
doctrine of Evolution, there is a progression of 
animated beings — which, though not perfect, possess 
in the main the attribute of Health — from the 
lowest forms up to a healthy and instinctive though 
certainly limited man. During all this stage the 
central law is in the ascendant, and the physical 
frame of each creature is the fairly clean vehicle 
of its expression — ^varying of course in complexity 
and degree according to the point of unfoldment 
which has been reached. And when thus in the 
long process of development the inner Man (which 
has lain hidden or dormant within the animal) 
at last appears, and the creature consequently takes 
on the outer frame and faculties of the human 
being, which are only as they are because of the 

' And with regard to disease, though it is not maintained that 
among the animals there is anything like immunity from it — 
since diseases of a more or less parasitic character are common 
in all tribes of plants and animals — still they seem to be rarer, 
and the organic instinct of health greater, than in the civilised man. 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

inner man which they represent ; when it has 
passed through stage after stage of animal Hfe, 
throwing out tentative types and Hkenesses of 
what is to come, and going through innumerable 
preliminary exercises in special forms and faculties, 
till at last it begins to be able to wear the full 
majesty of manhood itself — then it would seem 
that that long process of development is drawing 
to a close, and that the goal of creation must be 
within measurable distance. 

But then, at that very moment, and when the 
goal is, so to speak, in sight, occurs this failure 
of ** wholeness " of which we have spoken, this 
partial break-up of the unity of human nature — 
and man, instead of going forward any longer in 
the same line as before, to all appearance /^//j. 

What is the meaning of this loss of unity ? 
What is the cause and purpose of this fall and 
centuries-long exile from the earlier Paradise ? 

There can be but one answer. It is self-knowledge 
— (which involves in a sense the abandonment of 
self). Man has to become conscious of his destiny 
— to lay hold of and realise his own freedom and 
blessedness — to transfer his consciousness from 
the outer and mortal part of him to the inner and 

The cat cannot do this. Though perfect in 
its degree, its interior unfoldment is yet incomplete. 
The human soul within it has not yet come forward 
and declared itself ; some sheathing leaves have 
yet to open before the divine flower-bud can be 
clearly seen. And when at last (speaking as a 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

fool) the cat becomes a man — when the human 
soul within the creature has climbed itself forward 
and found expression, transforming the outer 
frame in the process into that of humanity — 
(which is the meaning I suppose of the evolution 
theory) — then the creature, though perfect and 
radiant in the form of Man, still lacks one thing. 
It lacks the knowledge of itself ; it lacks its own 
identity, and the realisation of the manhood to 
which as a fact it has attained. 

In the animals consciousness has never returned 
upon itself. It radiates easily outwards ; and 
the creature obeys without let or hesitation, and 
with little if any j(?^-consciousness, the law of its 
being. And when man first appears on the earth, 
and even up to the threshold of what we call 
civilisation, there is much to show that he should 
in this respect still be classed with the animals. 
Though vastly superior to them in attainments, 
phsyical and mental, in power over nature, capacity 
of progress, and adaptability, he still in these earlier 
stages was like an animal in the unconscious 
instinctive nature of his action ; and on the other 
hand, though his moral and intellectual structures 
were far less complete than those of the modern 
man — as was a necessary result of the absence of 
self-knowledge — he actually lived more in harmony 
with himself and with nature, ^ than does his 

' As to the unity of these wild races with Nature, that is a 
matter seemingly beyond dispute ; their keenness of sense, sensitive- 
ness to atmospheric changes, knowledge of properties of plants and 
habits of animals, etc., have been the subject of frequent remark 5 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

descendant ; his impulses, both physical and social, 
were clearer and more unhesitating ; and his un- 
consciousness of inner discord and sin a great 
contrast to our modern condition of everlasting 
strife and perplexity. 

If then to this stage belongs some degree of 
human perfection and felicity, yet there remains 
a much vaster height to be scaled. The human 
soul which has wandered darkling for so many 
thousand of years, from its tiny spark-like germ 
in some low form of life to its full splendor and 
dignity in man, has yet to come to the knowledge 
of its wonderful heritage, has yet to become finally 
individualised and free, to know itself immortal, 
to resume and interpret all its past lives, and to 
enter in triumph into the kingdom which it has 

It has in fact to face the frightful struggle of 
self-consciousness, or the disentanglement of the 

but beyond this, their strong feeling of union with the universal 
spirit, probably only dimly self conscious, but expressing itself 
very markedly and clearly in their customs, is most strange and 
pregnant of meaning. The dances of the Andaman Islanders 
on the sands at night, the wild festival of the new moon among 
the Fans and other African tribes, the processions through the 
forests, the chants and dull thudding of drums, the torture-dances 
of the young Red Indian bravos in the burning heat of the sun ; the 
Dionysiac festivals among the early Greeks ; and indeed the 
sacrificial nature-rites and carnivals and extraordinary powers of 
second-sight found among all primitive peoples ; all these things 
indicate clearly a faculty which, though it had hardly become 
self-conscious enough to be what we call religion, was yet in truth 
the foundation clement of religion, and the germ of some human 
powers which wait yet to be developed. 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

true self from the fleeting and perishable self. 
The animals and man, unfallen, are healthy and 
free from care, but unaware of what they are ; 
to attain self-knowledge man must fall ; he must 
become less than his true self; he must endure 
imperfection ; division and strife must enter his 
nature. To realise the perfect Life, to know what, 
how wonderful it is — to understand that all blessed- 
ness and freedom consists in its possession — he 
must for the moment suffer divorce from it ; 
the unity, the repose of his nature must be broken 
up, crime, disease and unrest must enter in, and 
by contrast he must attain to knowledge. 

Curious that at the very dawn of the Greek 
and with it the European civilisation we have 
the mystic words "Know Thyself" inscribed 
on the temple of the Delphic Apollo ; and that 
first among the legends of the Semitic race stands 
that of Adam and Eve eating of the tree of the 
Knowledge of good and evil ! To the animal 
there is no such knowledge, to the early man there 
was no such knowledge, and to the perfected man 
of the future there will be no such knowledge. 
It is a temporary perversion, indicating the disunion 
of the present-day man — the disunion of the outer 
self from the inner — the horrible dual self-con- 
sciousness — which is the means ultimately of a 
more perfect and conscious union than could ever 
have been realised without it — the death that is 
swallowed up in victory. ** For the first man is 
of the earth, earthy ; but the second man is the 
Lord from heaven." 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

In order then, at this point in his Evolution, 
to advance any farther, Man must first fall ; in 
order to know, he must lose. In order to realise 
what Health is, how splendid and glorious a 
possession, he must go through all the long negative 
experience of Disease ; in order to know the perfect 
social life, to understand what power and happiness 
to mankind are involved in their true relation to 
each other, he must learn the misery and suffering 
which come from mere individualism and greed ; 
and in order to find his true Manhood, to discover 
what a wonderful power it is, he must first lose it — he 
must become a prey and a slave to his own passions 
and desires — whirled away like Phaethon by the 
horses which he cannot control. 

This moment of divorce, then, this parenthesis 
in human progress, covers the ground of all History ; 
and the whole of Civilisation, and all crime and 
disease, are only the materials of its immense purpose 
— themselves destined to pass away as they arose, 
but to leave their fruits eternal. 

Accordingly we find that it has been the work 
of Civilisation — founded as we have seen on 
Property — in every way to disintegrate and corrupt 
man — literally to corrupt — to break up the unity 
of his nature. It begins with the abandonment 
of the primitive life and the growth of the sense 
of shame (as in the myth of Adam and Eve). 
From this follows the disownment of the sacredness 
of sex. Sexual acts cease to be a part of religious 
worship ; love and desire — the inner and the 
outer love — hitherto undifferentiated, now become 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

two separate things. (This no doubt a necessary 
stage in order for the development of the conscious- 
ness of love y but in itself only painful and abnormal.) 
It culminates and comes to an end, as to-day, 
in a complete divorce between the spiritual reality 
and the bodily fulfilment — in a vast system of 
commercial love, bought and sold, in the brothel 
and in the palace. It begins with the forsaking 
of the hardy nature-life, and it ends with a society 
broken down and prostrate, hardly recognisable 
as human, amid every form of luxury, poverty and 
disease. He who had been the free child of 
Nature denies his sonship ; he disowns the very 
breasts that suckled him. He deliberately turns 
his back upon the light of the sun, and hides him- 
self away in boxes with breathing holes (which 
he calls houses), living ever more and more in dark- 
ness and asphyxia, and only coming forth perhaps 
once a day to blink at the bright god, or to run 
back again at the first breath of the free wind for 
fear of catching cold ! He muffles himself in 
the cast-ofFfurs of the beasts, every century swathing 
himself in more and more layers, more and more 
fearfully and wonderfully fashioned, till he ceases 
to be recognisable as the Man that was once the 
crown of the animals, and presents a more ludicrous 
spectacle than the monkey that sits on his own 
barrel organ. He ceases to a great extent to use 
his muscles, his feet become partially degenerate, 
his teeth wholly, his digestion so enervated that 
he has to cook his food and make pulps of all his 
victuals, and his whole system so obviously on 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

the decline that at last in the end of time a Kay 
Robinson arises and prophesies as aforesaid, that 
he will before long become wholly toothless, bald 
and toeless. 

And so with this denial of Nature comes every 
form of disease ; first delicatesse, daintiness, 
luxury ; then unbalance, enervation, huge suscepti- 
bility to pain. With the shutting of himself 
away from the all-healing Power, man inevitably 
weakens his whole manhood ; the central bond 
is loosened, and he falls a prey to his own organs. 
He who before was unaware of the existence of 
these latter, now becomes only too conscious of 
them (and this — is it not the very object of the 
process ? ) ; the stomach, the liver and the spleen 
start out into painful distinctness before him, 
the heart loses its equable beat, the lungs their 
continuity with the universal air, and the brain 
becomes hot and fevered ; each organ in turn 
asserts itself abnormally and becomes a seat of 
disorder, every corner and cranny of the body 
becomes the scene and symbol of disease, and 
Man gazes aghast at his own kingdom — whose 
extent he had never suspected before — now all 
ablaze in wild revolt against him. And then — all 
going with this period of his development — sweep 
vast epidemic trains over the face of the earth, 
plagues and fevers and lunacies and world-wide 
festering sores, followed by armies, ever growing, 
of doctors — they too with their retinues of books 
and bottles, vaccinations and vivisections, and 
grinning death's-heads in the rear — a mad crew, 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

knowing not what they do, yet all unconsciously, 
doubtless, fulfilling the great age-long destiny of 

In all this the influence of Property is apparent 
enough. It is evident that the growth of property 
through the increase of man's powers of production 
reacts on the man in three ways : to draw him away 
namely, (i) from Nature, (2) from his true Self, 
(3) from his Fellows. In the first place it draws 
him away from Nature. That is, that as man's 
power over materials increases he creates for 
himself a sphere and an environment of his own, 
in some sense apart and different from the great 
elemental world of the winds and the waves, the 
woods and the mountains, in which he has hitherto 
lived. He creates what we call the artificial life, of 
houses and cities, and, shutting himself up in these, 
shuts Nature out. As a growing boy at a certain 
point, and partly in order to assert his independence, 
wrests himself away from the tender care of his 
mother, and even displays — just for the time being 
— a spirit of opposition to her, so the growing 
Man finding out his own powers uses them — for 
the time — even to do despite to Nature, and to 
create himself a world in which she shall have no 
part. In the second place the growth of property 
draws man away from his true Self. This is clear 
enough. As his power over materials and his 
possessions increases, man finds the means of 
gratifying his senses at will. Instead of being 
guided any longer by that continent and " whole " 

49 D 

Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

instinct which characterises the animals, his chief 
motive is now to use his powers to gratify this or 
that sense or desire. These become abnormally 
magnified, and the man soon places his main 
good in their satisfaction ; and abandons his true 
Self for his organs, the whole for the parts. Property 
draws the man outwards, stimulating the external 
part of his being, and for a time mastering him, 
overpowers the central Will, and brings about 
his disintegration and corruption. Lastly, Property 
by thus stimulating the external and selfish nature 
in Man, draws him away from his Fellows. In 
the anxiety to possess things for himself, in order 
to gratify his own bumps, he is necessarily brought 
into conflict with his neighbor and comes to 
regard him as an enemy. For the true Self of man 
consists in his organic relation with the whole 
body of his fellows ; and when the man abandons 
his true Self he abandons also his true relation to 
his fellows. The mass-Man must rule in each 
unit-man, else the unit-man will drop off and die. 
but when the outer man tries to separate himself 
from the inner, the unit-man from the mass-Man, 
then the reign of individuality begins — a false 
and impossible individuality of course, but the 
only means of coming to the consciousness of the 
true individuality. With the advent of a Civilisa- 
tion then founded on Property the unity of the 
old tribal society is broken up. The ties of blood 
relationship which were the foundation of the 
gentile system and the guarantees of the old fraternity 
and equality become dissolved in favor of powers 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

and authorities founded on mere possession. The 
growth of Wealth disintegrates the ancient Society ; 
the temptations of power, of possession, etc., 
which accompany it, wrench the individual from 
his moorings ; personal greed rules ; " each 
man for himself" becomes the universal motto ; 
the hand of every man is raised against his brother, 
and at last society itself becomes an organisation 
by which the rich fatten upon the vitals of the poor, 
the strong upon the murder of the weak. [It 
is interesting in this connection to find that Lewis 
Morgan makes the invention of a written alphabet 
and the growth of the conception of private property 
the main characteristics of the civilisation-period 
as distinguished from the periods of savagery 
and barbarism which preceded it ; for the invention 
of writing marks perhaps better than anything else 
could do the period when Man becomes self- 
conscious — when he records his own doings and 
thoughts, and so commences History proper; 
and the growth of private property marks the 
period when he begins to sunder himself from his 
fellows, when therefore the conception of sin (or 
separation) first enters in, and with it all the long 
period of moral perplexity, and the denial of that 
community of life between himself and his fellows 
which is really of the essence of man's being.] 

And then arises the institution of Government. 

Hitherto this had not existed except in a quite 
rudimentary form. The early communities troubled 
themselves little about individual ownership, and 
what government they had was for the most part 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

essentially democratic — as being merely a choice 
of leaders among blood-relations and social equals. 
But when the delusion that man can exist for himself 
alone — his outer and, as it were, accidental self 
apart from the great inner and cosmical self by 
which he is one with his fellows — when this delusion 
takes possession of him, it is not long before it 
finds expression in some system of private property. 
The old community of life and enjoyment passes 
away, and each man tries to grab the utmost he 
can, and to retire into his own lair for its consump- 
tion. Private accumulations arise ; the natural 
flow of the bounties of life is dammed back, and 
artificial barriers of Law have to be constructed 
in order to preserve the unequal levels. Outrage 
and Fraud follow in the wake of the desire of 
possession ; force has to be used by the possessors 
in order to maintain the law-barriers against the 
non-possessors ; classes are formed ; and finally 
the formal Government arises, mainly as the ex- 
pression of such force ; and preserves itself, as 
best it can, until such time as the inequalities which 
it upholds become too glaring, and the pent social 
waters gathering head burst through once more 
and regain their natural levels. 

Thus Morgan in his " Ancient Society " points 
out over and over again that the civilised state 
rests upon territorial and property marks and 
qualifications, and not upon a personal basis as 
did the ancient ge?is^ or the tribe ; and that the 
civilised government correspondingly takes on 
quite a different character and function from the 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

simple organisation of the gens. He says (p. 124), 
" Monarchy is incompatible with gentilism." Also 
with regard to the relation of Property to Civilisa- 
tion and Government he makes the following 
pregnant remarks (p. 505) : " It is impossible to 
over-estimate the influence of property in the 
civilisation of mankind. It was the power that 
brought the Aryan and Semitic nations out of bar- 
barism into civilisation. The growth of the idea of 
property in the human mind commenced in feeble- 
ness and ended in becoming its master passion. 
Governments and Laws are instituted with primary 
reference to its creation, protection and enjoyment. 
It introduced human slavery as an instrument in 
its production ; and after the experience of several 
thousand years it caused the abolition of slavery 
upon the discovery that a freeman was a better 
property-making machine." And in another pasage 
on the same subject, *' The dissolution of society 
bids fair to become the termination of a career 
of which property is the end and aim ; because 
such a career contains the elements of self-destruc- 
tion. Democracy is the next higher plane. It 
will be a revival in a higher form of the liberty, 
equality and fraternity of the ancient gentes." 

The institution of Government is in fact the 
evidence in social life that man has lost his inner 
and central control, and therefore must resort to 
an outward one. Losing touch with the inward 
Man — who is his true guide — he declines upon 
an external law, which must always be false. If 
each man remained in organic adhesion to the 


CIvilisasion : Its Cause and Cure 

general body of his fellows, no serious dis-harmony 
could occur ; but it is when this vital unity of the 
body politic becomes weak that it has to be pre- 
served by artificial means, and thus it is that with 
the decay of the primitive and instinctive social 
life there springs up a form of government 
which is no longer the democratic expression of 
the life of the whole people ; but a kind of outside 
authority and compulsion thrust upon them by 
a ruling class or caste. 

Perhaps the sincerest, and often though not 
always the earliest, form of Government is Monarchy. 
The sentiment of human unity having been already 
partly but not quite lost, the people choose — in 
order to hold society together — a man to rule 
over them who has this sentiment in a high degree. 
He represents the true Man and therefore the 
people. This is often a time of extensive warfare 
and the formation of nations. And it is interesting 
in this connection to note that the quite early 
*' Kings " or leaders of each nation just prior to 
the civilisation period were generally associated 
with the highest religious functions, as in the 
case of the Roman rex, the Greek basileus, the 
early Egyptian Kings, Moses among the Israelites, 
and Druid leaders of the Britons, and so on. 

Later, and as the central authority gets more 
and more shadowy in each man, and the external 
attraction of Property greater, so it does in Society. 
The temporal and spiritual powers part company. 
The king — who at first represented the Divine 
Spirit or soul of society, recedes into the back- 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

ground, and his nobles of high degree (who may 
be compared to the nobler, more generous, qualities 
of the mind) begin to take his place. This is the 
Aristocracy and the Feudal Age — the Timocracy 
of Plato ; and is marked by the appearance of 
large private tenures of land, and the growth of 
slavery and serfdom — the slavery thus outwardly 
appearing in society being the symbol of the inward 
enslavement of the man. 

Then comes the Commercial Age — the Oligarchy 
or Plutocracy of Plato. Plonour quite gives place 
to material wealth ; the rulers rule not by personal 
or hereditary, but by property qualifications. Parlia- 
ments and Constitutions and general Palaver 
are the order of the day. Wage-slavery, usury, 
mortgages, and other abominations, indicate the 
advance of the mortal process. In the individual 
man gain is the end of existence ; industry and 
scientific cunning are his topmost virtues. 

Last of all the break-up is complete. The 
individual loses all memory and tradition of his 
heavenly guide and counterpart ; his nobler passions 
fail for want of a leader to whom to dedicate them- 
selves ; his industry and his intellect serve but 
to minister to his little swarming desires. This 
is the era of anarchy — the democracy of Carlyle ; 
the rule of the rabble, and mob-law ; caucuses 
and cackle, competition and universal greed, 
breaking out in cancerous tyrannies and pluto- 
cracies — a mere chaos and confusion of society. 
For just as we saw in the human body, when the 
inner and positive force of Health has departed 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

from it, that it falls a prey to parasites which 
overspread and devour it ; so, when the central 
inspiration departs out of social life, does it writhe 
with the mere maggots of individual greed, and 
at length fall under the dominion of the most 
monstrous egotist who has been bred from its 

Thus we have briefly sketched the progress of 
the symptoms of the " disease," which, as said 
before, runs much (though not quite) the same 
course in the various nations w^hich it attacks. 
And if this last stage were really the end of all, 
and the true Democracy, there were indeed little 
left to hope for. No words of Carlyle could blast 
that black enough. But this is no true Democracy. 
Here in this " each for himself" is no rule of the 
Demos in every man, nor anything resembling 
it. Here is no solidarity such as existed in the 
ancient tribes and primaeval society, but only dis- 
integration and a dust-heap. The true Demo- 
cracy has yet to come. Here in this present 
stage is only the final denial of all outward and 
class government, in preparation for the restora- 
tion of the inner and true authority. Here in 
this stage the task of civilisation comes to an end ; 
the purport and object of all these centuries is 
fulfilled ; the bitter experience that mankind had 
to pass through is completed ; and out of this 
Death and all the torture and unrest which accom- 
panies it, comes at last the Resurrection. Man 
has sounded the depths of alienation from his own 
divine spirit, he has drunk the dregs of the cup of 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

suffering, he has literally descended into Hell ; 
henceforth he turns, both in the individual and in 
society, and mounts deliberately and consciously 
back again towards the unity which he has lost.'' 
And the false democracy parts aside for the dis- 
closure of the true Democracy which has been 
formed beneath it — which is not an external govern- 
ment at all, but an inward rule — the rule of the 
mass-Man in each unit-man. For no outward 
government can be anything but a make-shift — 
a temporary hard chrysalis-sheath to hold the grub 
together while the new life is forming inside — a 
device of the civilisation-period. Farther than 
this it cannot go, since no true life can rely upon 

I There is another point worth noting as characteristic of the 
civilisation-period. This is the abnormal development of the 
abstract intellect in comparison with the physical senses on the one 
hand, and the moral sense on the other. Such a result might be 
expected, seeing that abstraction from reality is naturally the great 
engine of that false individuality or apartness, which it is the object 
of Civilisation to produce. As it is, during this period man builds 
himself an intellectual world apart from the great actual universe 
around him ; the " ghosts of things " are studied in books ; the 
student lives indoors, he cannot face the open air — his theories 
" may prove very well in lecture-rooms, yet not prove at all under 
the spacious clouds, and along the landscape and flowing currents " ; 
children are " educated " afar from actual life ; huge phantom- 
temples of philosophy and science are reared upon the most slender 
foundations ; and in these he lives defended from actual fact. 
For as a drop of water, when it comes in contact with red-hot 
iron, wraps itself in a cloud of vapor and is saved from destruction, 
so the little mind of man, lest it should touch the burning truth 
of Nature and God and be consumed, evolves at each point of 
contact a veil of insubstantial thought which allows it for a time 
to exist apart, and becomes the nurse of its self-consciousness. 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

an external support, and, when the true life of 
society comes, all its forms will be fluid and spon- 
taneous and voluntary. 


And now, by way of a glimpse into the future 
— after this long digression what is the route that 
man will take ? 

This is a subject that I hardly dare tackle. 
*' The morning wind ever blows," says Thoreau, 
** the poem of creation is uninterrupted — but 
few are the ears that hear it." And how can we, 
gulfed as we are in this present whirlpool, conceive 
rightly the glory which awaits us ? No limits 
that our present knowledge puts need alarm us ; 
the impossibilities will yield very easily when the 
time comes ; and the anatomical difficulty as to 
how and where the wings are to grow will vanish 
when they are felt sprouting ! 

It can hardly be doubted that the tendency will 
be — indeed is already showing itself — towards a 
return to nature and community of human life. 
This is the way back to the lost Eden, or rather 
forward to the new Eden, of which the old was 
only a figure. Man has to undo the wrappings 
and the mummydom of centuries, by which he 
has shut himself from the light of the sun and 
lain in seeming death, preparing silently his glorious 
resurrection — for all the world like the funny old 
chrysalis that he is. He has to emerge from houses 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

and all his other hiding places wherein so long ago 
ashamed (as at the voice of God in the garden) 
he concealed himself — and Nature must once 
more become his home, as it is the home of the 
animals and the angels. 

As it is written in the old magical formula : 
*' Man clothes himself to descend, unclothes 
himself to ascend." Over his spiritual or wind- 
like body he puts on a material or earthy body ; 
over his earth-body he puts on the skins of animals 
and other garments ; then he hides this body in 
a house behind curtains and stone walls — which 
become to it as secondary skins and prolongations 
of itself. So that between the man and his true 
life there grows a dense and impenetrable hedge ; 
and, what with the cares and anxieties connected 
with his earth-body and all its skins, he soon loses 
the knowledge that he is a Man at all ; his true 
self slumbers in a deep and agelong swoon. 

But the instinct of all who desire to deliver the 
divine imago within them, is, in something more 
than the literal sense, towards unclothing. And 
the process of evolution or exfoliation itself is 
nothing but a continual unclothing of Nature, by 
which the perfect human Form which is at the 
root of it comes nearer and nearer to its mani- 

Thus, in order to restore the Health which he has 
lost, man has in the future to tend in this direction. 
Life indoors and in houses has to become a fraction 
only, instead of the principal part of existence as 
it is now. Garments similarly have to be simplified, 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

How far this process may go it is not necessary 
now to enquire. It is sufficiently obvious that our 
domestic life and clothing may be at once grea:tly 
reduced in complexity, and with the greatest ad- 
vantage — made subsidiary instead of being erected 
into the fetishes which they are. And everyone may 
feel assured that each gain in this direction is a 
gain in true life — whether it be the head that 
goes uncovered to the air of heaven, or the feet 
that press bare the magnetic earth, or the elementary 
raiment that allows through its meshes the light 
itself to reach the vital organs. The life of the 
open air, familiarity with the winds and waves, clean 
and pure food, the companionship of the animals 
— the very wrestling with the great Mother for 
his food — all these things will tend to restore that 
relationship which man has so long disowned ; 
and the consequent instreaming of energy into 
his system will carry him to perfections of health 
and radiance of being at present unsuspected. 

Of course, it will be said that many of these things 
are difficult to realise in our country, that an indoor 
life, with all its concomitants, is forced upon us 
by the climate. But if this is to some small — though 
very small — extent true, it forms no reason why 
we should not still take advantage of every oppor- 
tunity to push in the direction indicated. It must 
be remembered, too, that our climate is greatly 
of our own creation. If the atmosphere of many 
of our great towns and of the lands for miles in 
their neighbourhood is devitalised and deadly — 
so that in cold weather it grants to the poor mortal 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

no compensating power of resistance, but compels 
him at peril of his life to swathe himself in great- 
coats and mufflers — the blame is none but ours. 
It is we who have covered the lands with a pall 
of smoke, and are walking to our own funerals 
under it. 

That this climate, however, at its best may not 
be suited to the highest developments of human 
life is quite possible. Because Britain has been 
the scene of some of the greatest episodes of Civilisa- 
tion, it does not follow that she will keep the lead 
in the period that is to follow ; and the Higher 
Communities of the future will perhaps take their 
rise in warmer lands, where life is richer and fuller, 
more spontaneous and more generous, than it 
can be here. 

Another point in this connection is the food 
question. For the restoration of the central vigour 
when lost or degenerate, a diet consisting mainly 
of fruits and grains is most adapted. Animal food 
often gives for the time being a lot of nervous 
energy — and may be useful for special purposes ; 
but the energy is of a spasmodic feverish kind ; 
the food has a tendency to inflame the subsidiary 
centres, and so to diminish the central control. 
Those who live mainly on animal food are specially 
liable to disease — and not only physically ; for 
their minds also fall more easily a prey to desires 
and sorrows. In times therefore of grief or 
mental trouble of any kind, as well as in times of 
bodily sickness, immediate recourse should be 
had to the more elementary diet. The body 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

under this diet endures work with less fatigue, 
is less susceptible to pain, and to cold ; and heals 
its wounds with extraordinary celerity ; all of 
which facts point in the same direction. It may 
be noted, too, that foods of the seed kind — by 
which I mean all manner of fruits, nuts, tubers, 
grains, eggs, etc. (and I may include milk in its 
various forms of butter, cheese, curds, and so 
forth), not only contain by their nature the elements 
of life in their most condensed forms, but have 
the additional advantage that they can be appro- 
priated without injury to any living creature — for 
even the cabbage may inaudibly scream when torn 
up by the roots and boiled, but the strawberry 
plant asks us to take of its fruit, and paints it red 
expressly that we may see and devour it ! Both 
of which considerations must convince us that 
this kind of food is most fitted to develop the kernel 
of man's life. 

Which all means cleanness. The unity of our 
nature being restored, the instinct of bodily clean- 
ness, both within and without, which is such a 
marked characteristic of the animals, will again 
characterise mankind — only now instead of a 
blind instinct it will be a conscious, joyous one ; 
dirt being only disorder and obstruction. And 
thus the whole human being, mind and body, 
becoming clean and radiant from its inmost centre 
to its farthest circumference — " transfigured " — 
the distinction between the words spiritual and 
material disappears. In the words of Whitman, 
" objects gross and the unseen soul are one." 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

But this return to Nature, and identification in 
some sort with the great cosmos, does not involve 
a denial or depreciation of human life and interests. 
It is not uncommonly supposed that there is some 
kind of antagonism between Man and Nature, 
and that to recommend a life closer to the latter 
means mere asceticism and eremitism ; and un- 
fortunately this antagonism does exist to-day, 
though it certainly will not exist for ever. To-day 
it is unfortunately perfectly true that Man is the 
only animal who, instead of adorning and beautifying, 
makes Nature hideous by his presence. The fox 
and the squirrel may make their homes in the 
wood and add to its beauty in so doing ; but 
when Alderman Smith plants his villa there, the 
gods pack up their trunks and depart ; they can 
bear it no longer. The Bushmen can hide them- 
selves and become indistinguishable on a slope 
of bare rock ; they twine their naked little yellow 
bodies together, and look like a heap of dead 
sticks ; but when the chimney-pot hat and frock- 
coat appear, the birds fly screaming from the trees. 
This was the great glory of the Greeks that they 
accepted and perfected Nature ; as the Parthenon 
sprang out of the limestone terraces of the Acropolis, 
carrying the natural lines of the rock by gradations 
scarce perceptible into the finished and human 
beauty of frieze and pediment, and as, above, it 
was open for the blue air of heaven to descend into 
it for a habitation ; so throughout in all their 
best work and life did they stand in this close 
relation to the earth and the sky and to all instinctive 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

and elemental things, admitting no gulf between 
themselves and them, but only perfecting their 
expressiveness and beauty. And some day we 
shall again understand this which, in the very 
sunrise of true Art, the Greeks so well understood. 
Possibly some day we shall again build our houses 
or dwelling places so simple and elemental in 
character that they will fit in the nooks of the 
hills or along the banks of the streams or by the 
edges of the woods without disturbing the harmony 
of the landscape or the songs of the birds. Then 
the great temples, beautiful on every height, or 
by the shores of the rivers and the lakes, will be 
the storehouses of all precious and lovely things. 
There men, women and children will come to share 
in the great and wonderful common life, the gardens 
around will be sacred to the unharmed and welcome 
animals ; there all store and all facilities of books 
and music and art for every one, there a meeting 
place for social life and intercourse, there dances 
and games and feasts. Every village, every little 
settlement, will have such hall or halls. No need 
for private accumulations. Gladly will each man, 
and more gladly still each woman, take his or her 
treasures, except what are immediately or necessarily 
in use, to the common centre, where their value 
will be increased a hundred and a thousand fold 
by the greater number of those who can enjoy 
them, and where far more perfectly and with 
far less toil they can be tended than if scattered 
abroad in private hands. At one stroke half the 
labour and all the anxiety of domestic caretaking 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

will be annihilated. The private dwelling places, 
no longer costly and labyrinthine in proportion 
to the value and number of the treasures they 
contain, will need no longer to have doors and 
windows jealously closed against fellow men or 
mother nature. The sun and air will have access 
to them, the indwellers will have unfettered egress. 
Neither man nor woman will be tied in slavery to 
the lodge which they inhabit ; and in becoming 
once more a part of nature, the human habitation 
will at length cease to be what it is now for at 
least half the human race — a prison. 

Men often ask about the new Architecture — 
what, and of what sort, it is going to be. But 
to such a question there can be no answer till a 
new understanding of life has entered into people's 
minds, and then the answer will be clear enough. 
For as the Greek Temples and the Gothic Cathedrals 
were built by people who themselves lived but 
frugally as we should think, and were ready to 
dedicate their best work and chief treasure to the 
gods and the common life ; and as to-day when 
we must needs have for ourselves spacious and 
luxurious villas, we seem to be unable to design 
a decent church or public building ; so it will 
not be till we once more find our main interest and 
life in the life of the community and the gods that 
a new spirit will inspire our architecture. Then 
when our Temples and Common Halls are not 
designed to glorify an individual architect or patron, 
but are built for the use of free men and women, 
to front the sky and the sea and the sun, to spring 

65 S 

Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

out of the earth, companionable with the trees 
and the rocks, not alien in spirit from the sunlit globe 
itself or the depth of the starry night — then I 
say their form and structure will quickly determine 
themselves, and men will have no difficulty in 
making them beautiful. And similarly with the 
homes or dwelling places of the people. Various 
as these may be for the various wants of men, whether 
for a single individual or for a family, or for groups 
of individuals or families, v/hether to the last degree 
simple, or whether more or less ornate and complex, 
still the new conception, the new needs of life, 
will necessarily dominate them and give them form 
by a law unfolding from v/ithin. 

In such new human life then — its fields, its farms, 
its workshops, its cities — always the work of man 
perfecting and beautifying the lands, aiding the 
efforts of the sun and soil, giving voice to the 
desire of the mute earth — in such new communal 
life near to nature, so far from any asceticism or 
inhospitality, we are fain to see far more humanity 
and sociability than ever before : an infinite 
helpfulness and sympathy, as between the children 
of a common mother. Mutual help and com- 
bination will then have become spontaneous and 
instinctive : each man contributing to the service 
of his neighbor as inevitably and naturally as 
the right hand goes to help the left in the human 
body — and for precisely the same reason. Every 
man — think of it ! — will do the work which he 
likes^ which he desires to do, which is obviously 
before him to do, and which he knows will be useful, 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

without thought of wages or reward ; and the reward 
will come to him as inevitably and naturally as in 
the human body the blood flows to the member 
which is exerting itself. All the endless burden 
of the adjustments of labour and wages, of the war 
of duty and distaste, of want and weariness, will 
be thrown aside — all the huge waste of work 
done against the grain will be avoided ; out of 
the endless variety of human nature will spring a 
perfectly natural and infinite variety of occupations, 
all mutually contributive ; Society at last will be 
free and the human being after long ages will 
have attained to deliverance. 

This is the Communism which Civilisation has 
always /z<^/i?(^, as it hated Christ. Yet it is inevitable ; 
for the cosmical man, the instinctive elemental 
man accepting and crowning nature, necessarily 
fulfils the universal law of nature. As to External 
Government and Law, they will disappear ; for 
they are only the travesties and transitory substitutes 
of Inward Government and Order. Society in its 
final state is neither a Monarchy, nor an Aristocracy 
nor a Democracy, nor an Anarchy, and yet in another 
sense it is all of these. It is an Anarchy because 
there is no outward rule, but only an inward and 
invisible spirit of life ; it is a Democracy because 
it is the rule of the Mass-man, or Demos, in each 
unit man ; it is an Aristocracy because there are 
degrees and ranks of such inv/ard power in all 
men ; and it is a Monarchy because all these ranks 
and powers merge in a perfect unity and central 
control at last. And so it appears that the outer 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

forms of government which belong to the CiviUsa- 
tion-period are only the expression in separate 
external symbols of the facts of the true inner life 
of society. 

And just as thus the various external forms of 
government during the Civilisation-period find 
their justification and interpretation in the ensuing 
period, so will it be with the mechanical and other 
products of the present time ; they will be taken 
up, and find their proper place and use in the time 
to come. They will not be refused ; but they 
will have to be brought into subjection. Our 
locomotives, machinery, telegraphic and postal 
systems ; our houses, furniture, clothes, books, 
our fearful and wonderful cookery, strong drinks, 
teas, tobaccos ; our medical and surgical appliances ; 
high-faluting sciences and philosophies, and all 
other engines hitherto of human bewilderment, 
have simply to be reduced to abject subjection to 
the real man. All these appliances, and a thousand 
others such as we hardly dream of, will come in 
to perfect his power and increase his freedom ; 
but they will not be the objects of a mere fetish-wor- 
ship as now. Man will use them, instead of their 
using him. His real life will lie in a region far 
beyond them. But in thus for a moment denying 
and " mastering " the products of Civilisation, 
will he for the first time discover their true 
value, and reap from them an enjoyment unknown 

The same with the moral powers. As said 
before, the knowledge of good and evil at a certain 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

point passes away, or becomes absorbed into a 
higher knowledge. The perception of Sin goes 
with a certain weakness in the man. As long as 
there is conflict and division within him, so long 
does he seem to perceive conflicting and opposing 
principles in the world without. As long as 
the objects of the outer world excite emotions in 
him which pass beyond his control, so long do those 
objects stand as the signals of evil — of disorder and 
sin. Not that the objects are bad in themselves, 
or even the emotions which they excite, but that 
all through this period these things serve to the 
man as indications of his weakness. But when 
the central power is restored in man and all things 
are reduced to his service, it is impossible for him 
to see badness in anything. The bodily is no 
longer antagonistic to the spiritual love, but is 
absorbed into it. All his passions take their places 
perfectly naturally, and become, when the occasions 
arise, the vehicles of his expression. Vices under 
existing conditions are vices simply because of 
the inordinate and disturbing influence they exer- 
cise, but will cease again to be vices when the man 
regains his proper command. Thus Socrates having 
a clean soul in a clean body could drink his boon 
companions under the table and then go out 
himself to take the morning air — what was a blemish 
and defect in them being simply an added power 
of enjoyment to himself ! 

The point of difference throughout (being the 
transference of the centre of gravity of life and con- 
sciousness from the partial to the universal man) is 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

symbolised by the gradual resumption of more uni- 
versal conditions. That is to say that during the 
civilisation-period, the body being systematically 
wrapped in clothes, the head 9.\one represents man — 
the little finnikin, intellectual, self-conscious man in 
contra-distinction to the cosmical man represented 
by the entirety of the bodily organs. The body 
has to be delivered from its swathings in order 
that the cosmical consciousness may once more 
reside in the human breast. We have to become 
" all face " again — as the savage said of himself. ^ 

Where the cosmic self is, there is no more self- 
consciousness. The body and v/hat is ordinarily 
called the self are felt to be only parts of the true 
self, and the ordinary distinctions of inner and 
outer, egotism and altruism, etc., lose a good deal 
of their value. Thought no longer returns upon 
the local self as the chief object of regard, but con- 
sciousness is continually radiant from it, filling 
the body and overflowing upon external Nature. 
Thus the Sun in the physical world is the allegory of 
the true self. The worshiper must adore the 
Sun, he must saturate himself with sunlight, 
and take the physical Sun into himself. Those 
who live by fire and candle-light are filled with 
phantoms ; their thoughts are Will-o'-th'-wisp- 
like images of themselves, and they are tormented 
by a horrible self-consciousness. 

And when the Civilisation-period has passed 
away, the old Nature-religion — perhaps greatly 

' See Alonso di Ovalle's Account of the Kingdom of Chile in 
Churchill's Collection of Voyages and Travels, 1724. 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

grown — will come back. This immense stream 
of religious life which, beginning far beyond the 
horizon of earliest history, has been deflected into 
various metaphysical and other channels — of 
Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, and the like 
— during the historical period, will once more 
gather itself together to float on its bosom all the 
arks and sacred vessels of human progress. Man 
will once more feel his unity with his fellows, he 
will feel his unity with the animals, with the moun- 
tains and the streams, with the earth itself and the 
slow lapse of the constellations, not as an abstract 
dogma of Science or Theology, but as a living and 
ever-present fact. Ages back this has been under- 
stood better than now. Our Christian ceremonial 
is saturated with sexual and astronomical symbols ; 
and long before Christianity existed, the sexual 
and astronomical were the main forms of religion. 
That is to say, men instinctively felt and wor- 
shiped the great life coming to them through 
Sex, the great life coming to them from the deeps 
of Heaven. They deified both. They placed 
their gods — their own human forms — in sex, 
they placed them in the sky. And not only so, 
but wherever they felt this kindred human life — 
in the animals, in the ibis, the bull, the lamb, 
the snake, the crocodile ; in the trees and flowers, 
the oak, the ash, the laurel, the hyacinth ; in the 
streams and water-falls, on the mountain-sides or 
in the depths of the sea — they placed them. The 
whole universe was full of a life which, though 
not always friendly, was human and kindred to 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

their own, felt by them, not reasoned about, but 
simply perceived. To the early man the notion 
of his having a separate individuality could only 
with difficulty occur ; hence he troubled himself 
not with the suicidal questionings concerning the 
whence and whither which now vex the modern 
mind.^ For what causes these questions to be 
asked is simply the wretched feeling of isolation, 
actual or prospective, which man necessarily has 
when he contemplates himself as a separate atom 
in this immense universe — the gulf which lies 
below seemingly ready to swallow him, and the 
anxiety to find some mode of escape. But when 
he feels once more that he, that he himself, is 
absolutely indivisibly and indestructibly a part 
of this great whole — why then there is no gulf 
into which he can possibly fall ; when he is sen- 
sible of the fact, why then the how of its realisation, 
though losing none of its interest, becomes a matter 
for whose solution he can wait and work in faith 
and contentment of mind. The Sun or Sol, 
visible image of his very Soul, closest and most 
vital to him of all mortal things, occupying the 
illimitable heaven, feeding all with its life ; the 
Moon, emblem and nurse of his own reflective 
thought, the conscious Man, measurer of Time, 
mirror of the Sun ; the planetary passions wander- 
ing to and fro, yet within bounds ; the starry 
destinies ; the changes of the earth, and the seasons ; 
the upward growth and unfoldment of all organic 
life ; the emergence of the perfect Man, towards 
' See Notes at end of this chapter. 

Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

whose birth all creation groans and travails — all 
these things will return to become realities, and 
to be the frame or setting of his supra-mundane 
life. The meaning of the old religions will come 
back to him. On the high tops once more gathering 
he will celebrate with naked dances the glory of 
the human form and the great processions of the stars, 
or greet the bright horn of the young moon which 
now after a hundred centuries comes back laden 
with such wondrous associations — all the yearnings 
and the dreams and the wonderment of the genera- 
tions of mankind — the worship of Astarte and of 
Diana, of Isis or the Virgin Mary ; once more in 
sacred groves will he reunite the passion and the 
delight of human love with his deepest feelings of 
the sanctity and beauty of Nature ; or in the open, 
standing uncovered to the Sun, will adore the 
emblem of the everlasting splendour which shines 
within. The same sense of vital perfection and 
exaltation which can be traced in the early and 
pre-civilisation peoples — only a thousand times 
intensified, defined, illustrated and purified — will 
return to irradiate the redeemed and delivered 

In suggesting thus the part which Civilisation 
has played in history, I am aware that the word 
itself is difficult to define — is at best only one of 
those phantom-generalisations which the mind is 
forced to employ ; also that the account I have 
given of it is sadly imperfect, leaning perhaps too 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

much to the merely negative and destructive 
aspect of this thousand-year long lapse of human 
evolution. I would also remind the reader that 
though it is perfectly true that under the dissolv- 
ing influence of civilisation empire after empire 
has gone under and disappeared, and the current 
of human progress time after time has only been 
restored again by a fresh influx of savagery, yet 
its corruptive tendency has never had a quite 
unlimited fling ; but that all dov/n the ages of its 
dominance over the earth we can trace the tradi- 
tion of a healing and redeeming power at work 
in the human breast and an anticipation of the 
second advent of the son of man. Certain institu- 
tions, too, such as Art and the Family (though it 
seems not unlikely that both of these will greatly 
change when the special conditions of their present 
existence have disappeared), have served to keep 
the sacred flame alive ; the latter preserving in 
island-miniatures, as it were, the ancient com- 
munal humanity when the seas of individualism 
and greed covered the general face of the earth ; 
the former keeping up, so to speak, a navel-cord 
of contact with Nature, and a means of utterance 
of primal emotions else unsatisfiable in the world 

And if it seem extravagant to suppose that Society 
will ever emerge from the chaotic condition of 
strife and perplexity in v/hich we find it all down 
the lapse of historical time, or to hope that the 
civilisation-process which has terminated fatally 
so invariably in the past will ever eventuate in 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

the establishment of a higher and more perfect 
health-condition, we may for our consolation remem- 
ber that to-day there are features in the problem 
which have never been present before. In the 
first place, to-day Civilisation is no longer isolated, 
as in the ancient world, in surrounding floods of 
savagery and barbarism, but it practically covers 
the globe, and the outlying savagery is so feeble 
as not possibly to be a menace to it. This may 
at first appear a drawback, for (it will be said) 
if Civilisation be not renovated by the influx 
of external Savagery its own inherent flaws will 
destroy society all the sooner. And there would 
be some truth in this if it were not for the following 
consideration, namely, that while for the first 
time in History Civilisation is now practically 
continuous over the globe, now also for the first 
time can we descry forming in continuous line 
within its very structure the forces which are destined 
to destroy it and to bring about the new order. 
While hitherto isolated communisms, as suggested, 
have existed here and there and from time to time, 
now for the first time in History both the masses and 
the thinkers of all the advanced nations of the world 
are consciously feeling their way towards the 
establishment of a socialistic and communal life 
on a vast scale. The present competitive society 
is more and more rapidly becoming a mere dead 
formula and husk within which the outlines of 
the new and human society are already discernible. 
Simultaneously, and as if to match this growth, a 
move towards Nature and Savagery is for the first 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

time taking place from within, instead of being 
forced upon society from without. The nature 
movement begun years ago in Hterature and art 
is now, among the more advanced sections of the 
civiHsed world, rapidly realising itself in actual 
life, going so far even as a denial, among some, 
of machinery and the complex products of Civilisa- 
tion, and developing among others into a gospel 
of salvation by sandals and sunbaths ! It is in 
these two movements — towards a complex human 
Communism and towards individual freedom and 
Savagery — in some sort balancing and correcting 
each other, and both visibly growing up within, 
though utterly foreign to — our present-day 
Civilisation, that we have fair grounds, I think, for 
looking forward to its cure. 


(See p. 26) The following remarks by Mr. H. B. Cotterill on the 
natives around Lake Nyassa, among whom he lived at a time, 
1876-8, when the region was almost unvisited, may be of interest. 
" In regard of merely ' animal ' development and well-being, 
that is in the delicate perfection of bodily faculties (perceptive), 
the African savage is as a rule incomparably superior to us. One 
feels like a child, utterly dependent on them, when travelling or 
hunting with them. It is true that many may be found (especially 
amongst the weaker tribes that have been slave-hunted or driven 
into barren corners) who are half-starved and wizened, but as a 
rule they are splendid animals. In character there is a great want 
of that strength which in the educated civilised man is secured 
by the roots striking out into the Past and P'uture — and in spite 
of their immense perceptive superiority they feel and acknowledge 
the superior force of character in the white man. They are the 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

very converse of the Stoic self-sufficient sage — like children in 
their ' admiration ' and worship of the Unknown. Hence their 
absolute want of Conceit, though they possess self-command and 
dignity. They are, to those they love and respect, faithful and 
devoted — their faithfulness and truthfulness are dictated by no 
' categorical imperative,' but by personal affection. Towards an 
enemy they can be, without any conscientious scruples, treacherous 
and inhumanly cruel. I should say that there is scarcely any 
possible idea that is so foreign to the savage African mind as that 
of general philanthropy or enemy-love." 

" In endurance the African savage beats us hollow (except 
trained athletes). On one occasion my men rowed my boat with 
lo foot oars against the wind in a choppy sea for 25 hours at one 
go, across Kuwirwe Bay, about 60 miles. They never once stopped 
or left their seats — just handed round a handful of rice now and 
then. I was at the helm all the time — and had enough of it ! . . . 
They carry 80 lbs. on their heads for 10 hours through swamps 
and jungles. Four of my men carried a sick man weighing 14 
stones in a hammock for 200 miles, right across the dreaded Mali- 
kata Swamp. But for sudden emergencies, squalls, etc., they are 

(See p. 27) " So lovely a scene made easily credible the sugges- 
tion, otherwise highly probable, that the Golden Age was no mere 
fancy of the poets, but a reminiscence of the facts of social life 
in its primitive organisation of village and house-communities." 
(J. S. Stuart-Glennie's Europe and Asia, ch. i. Servia.) 

(See p. 72) " It was only on the up-break of the primitive 
socialisms that the passionate desire of, and therefore belief in, 
individual Immortality arose. With an intense feeling, not of 
an independent individual life, but of a dependent common life, 
there is no passionate desire of, though there may be more or less 
of belief in, a continuance after death of individual existence." 
{Ibid, p. 161.) 

Following is an extract from a letter from my friend Havelock 
Ellis, which he kindly allows me to reprint. The passage is 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

interesting as indicating cm cause, at any rate, of the failure of 
the modern civilisations. " Your remark that you are re-publishing 
Cwilisat'ton : its Cause and Cure has led me to read it once again, 
and I see how well adapted it is for reissue just now when there 
is so widespread a discontent with ' civilisation.' I do not see 
any reason for changing the essay, though, no doubt, much might 
be added to supplement it. What has, however, struck me is 
that you leave out of account the reason for the greater health, 
vigour, and high spirit of savages (when such conditions exist), 
and that is the more stringent natural selection among savages owing 
to the greater hardness of their life. You doubtless know ch. xvii 
of Westermarck's Moral Ideas, where he shows how widespread 
among savages (when they have got past the first crude primitive 
stage), and in the ancient civilisations, was the practice of infanticide 
applied to inferior babies and the habit of allowing sick persons 
to die. That was evidently the secret of the natural superiority 
of the savage and of the men of the old civilisation, for the Greeks 
and Romans were very stringent in this m.atter. The flabbiness 
of the civilised and the prevalence of doctors and hygienists, which 
you make fun of, is due to the modem tenderness for human life 
which is afraid to kill off even the most worthless specimens and 
so lowers the whole level of ' civilised ' humanity. Introduce a 
New Hardness in this matter and we should return to the high 
level of savagery, while the doctors would disappear as if by 
magic. I don't myself believe we can introduce this hardness ; 
and that is why I attach so much importance to intelligent 
eugenics, working through birth-control, as the only now possible 
way of getting towards that high natural level you aim at." — 
Havelock Ellis (1920). 



TTcuTi Xoyoj \6yoQ taog avTiKetrai. 

IT is one of the difficulties which meet any- 
one who suggests that modern science is 
not wholly satisfactory, that it is immedi- 
ately assumed that the writer is covertly defending 
what Ingersoll calls the " rib-story," or that he 
v/ishes to restore belief in the literal inspiration of 
the Bible. But, religious controversy apart, and 
while admitting that Science has done a great work 
in cleaning away the kitchen-middens of super- 
stition and opening the path to clearer and saner 
views of the world, it is possible — and there is 
already a growing feeling that way — that her 
positive contributions to our comprehension of 
the order of the universe have in late times been 
disappointing, and that even her methods are only 
of limited applicability. After a glorious burst 
of perhaps fifty years, amid great acclamations 
and good hopes that the crafty old universe was 
going to be caught in her careful net. Science, it 
must be confessed, now finds herself in almost 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

every direction in the most hopeless quandaries ; 
and, whether the rib-story be true or not, has at 
any rate provided no very satisfactory substitute 
for it. And the reason of this failure is very 
obvious. It goes with a certain defect in the 
human mind, which, as we have pointed out 
(note, p. 57), necessarily belongs to the Civilisa- 
tion-period — the tendency, namely, to separate 
the logical and intellectual part of man from the 
emotional and instinctive, and to give it a locus standi 
of its own. Science has failed, because she has 
attempted to carry out the investigation of nature 
from the intellectual side alone — neglecting the 
other constituents necessarily involved in the 
problem. She has failed, because she has attempted 
an impossible task ; for the discovery of a per- 
manently valid and purely intellectual representa- 
tion of the universe is simply impossible. Such 
a thing does not exist. 

The various theories and views of nature which 
we hold are merely the fugitive envelopes of the 
successive stages of human growth — each set of 
theories and views belonging organically to the 
moral and emotional stage which has been reached, 
and being in some sort the expression of it ; so 
that the attempt at any given time to set up an 
explanation of phenomena which shall be valid 
in itself and without reference to the mental con- 
dition of those who set it up, necessarily ends in 
failure ; and the present state of confusion and 
contradiction in which modern Science finds itself 
is merely the result of such attempt. 


Modern Science : A Criticism 

Of course this limitation of the validity of 
Science has been recognised by most of those 
who have thought about the matter ; ^ but it is 
so commonly overlooked, and latterly the notion 
has so far gained ground that the " laws " of 
science are immutable facts and eternal statements 
of verity, that it may be worth while to treat the 
subject a little more in detail. 

The method of Science is the method of all 
mundane knowledge ; it is that of limitation or 
actual ignorance. Placed in face of the great 
uncontained unity of Nature we can only deal 
with it in thought by selecting certain details and 
isolating those (either wilfully or unconsciously) 
from the rest. That is right enough. But in 
doing so — in isolating such and such details — we 
practically beg the question we are in search of ; 
and, moreover, in supposing such isolation we 
suppose what is false, and therefore vitiate our 
conclusion. From these two radical defects of 
all intellectual inquiry we cannot escape. The 
views of Science are like the views of a mountain ; 
each is only possible as long as you limit yourself 
to a certain standpoint. Move your position, 
and the view is changed. 

Perhaps the word " species " will illustrate our 
meaning as well as any word ; and, in a sense, 
the word is typical of the method of Science. I 

I See note, p. 119. 

» Since the above was written there has certainly been a great 
change, and the dogmatic confidence in the verity of the scientific 
"laws" has now (1920) almost disappeared. 

81 F 

Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

see a dog for the first time. It is a fox-hound. 
Then I see a second fox-hound, and a third and a 
fourth. Presently I form from these few instances 
a general conception of " dog." But after a time 
I see a grey-hound and a terrier and a mastiff, 
and my old conception is destroyed. A new one 
has to be formed, and then a new one and a new 
one. Now I overlook the whole race of civilised 
dogs and am satisfied with my wisdom ; but 
presently I come upon some wild dogs, and study 
the habits of the wolf and the fox. Geology turns 
me up some links, and my conception of dog 
melts away like a lump of ice into surrounding 
water. My species exists no more. As long as 
I knew a few of the facts I could talk very wise 
about them; or if I limited myself arbitrarily, 
as we will say, to a study only of animals in England 
at the present day, I could classify them ; but 
widen the bounds of my knowledge, the area 
of observation, and all my work has to be done 
over again. My species is not a valid fact of 
Nature, but a fiction arising out of my own 
ignorance or arbitrary isolation of the objects 

Or to take an instance from Astronomy. We 
are accustomed to say that the path of the moon 
is an ellipse. But this is a very loose statement. 
On enquiry we find that, owing to perturbations said 
to be produced by the sun, the path deviates con- 
siderably from an ellipse. In fact in strict calcu- 
lations it is taken as being a certain ellipse only 
for an instant — the next instant it is supposed to 


Modern Science : A Criticism 

be a portion of another ellipse. We might then 
call the path an irregular curve somewhat resembling 
an ellipse. This is a new view. But on further 
enquiry it appears that, while the moon is going 
round the earth, the earth itself is speeding on 
through space about the sun — in consequence of 
which the actual path of the moon does not in the 
least resemble an ellipse ! Finally the sun itself 
is in motion with regard to the fixed stars, and 
they are in movement too. What then is the path 
of the moon } No one knows ; we have not the 
faintest idea — the word itself ceases to have any 
assignable meaning. It is true that if we agree 
to ignore the perturbations produced by the sun 
— as in fact we do ignore perturbations produced 
by the planets and other bodies — and if we agree 
to ignore the motion of the earth, and the flight 
of the solar system through space, and even the 
movement of any centre round which that may be 
speeding, we may then say that the moon moves 
in an ellipse. But this has obviously nothing to 
do with actual facts. The moon does not move 
in an ellipse — not even " relatively to the earth " 
— and probably never has done and never will 
do so. It may be a convenient view or fiction 
to say that it would do so under such and 
such circumstances — but it is still only a fiction. 
To attempt to isolate a small portion of the 
phenomena from the rest in a universe of 
which the unity is one of Science's most cher- 
ished convictions, is obviously self-stultifying and 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

But you say it can be proved by mathematics 
that the elUpse would be the path under these 
conditions ; to which I reply that the mathematical 
proof, though no doubt cogent to the human mind 
(as at present constituted in most people), is open 
to the same objection that it does not deal with 
actual facts. It deals with a mental supposition, 
i.e., that there are only two bodies acting on each 
other — a case which never has occurred and never 
can occur — and then, assuming the law of gra- 
vitation (which is just the thing which has to be 
proved), it arrives at a mental formula, the ellipse. 
But to argue from this process that the ellipse is 
really a thing in Nature, and that the heavenly 
bodies do move or even tend to move in ellipses, 
is obviously a most unwarrantable leap in the 
dark. Finally you argue that the leap is warranted 
because, by assuming that the moon and planets 
move in ellipses, you can actually foretell things 
that happen, as for instance the occurrences of 
eclipses ; and in reply to that I can only say that 
Tycho Brah^ foretold eclipses almost as well 
by assuming that the heavenly bodies moved in 
epicycles, and that modern astronomers do apply 
the epicycle theory in their mathematical formulas. 
The epicycles were an assumption made for a 
certain purpose, and the ellipses are an assumption 
made for the same purpose. In some respects 
the ellipse is a more convenient fiction than the 
epicycle, but it is no less a fiction. 

In other words — with regard to this ** path of 
the moon " (as with regard to any other phenomenon 


Modern Science : A Criticism 

of Nature) — our knowledge of it must be either 
absolute or relative. But we cannot know the 
absolute path ; and as to the relative, why all we 
can say is that it does not exist (any more thain 
species exists) — we cannot break up Nature so ; 
it is not a thing in Nature, but in our own minds 
— it is a view and a fiction. i 

Again, let us take an example from Physics 
— Boyle's law of the compressibility of gases. 
This law states that, the temperature remaining 
constant, the volume of a given quantity of gas is 
inversely proportional to its pressure. It is a 
law which has been made a good deal of, and at 
one time was thought to be true, i.e.^ it was thought 
to be a statement of fact. A more extended and 
careful observation, however, shows that it is only 
true under so many limitations, that, like the 
elHpse in Astronomy, it must be regarded as a 
convenient fiction and nothing more. It appears 
that air follows the supposed law pretty well, 
but not by any means exactly except within very 
narrow limits of pressure ; other gases, such as 
carbonic acid and hydrogen, deviate from it very 
considerably — some more than others, and some 
in one direction and some in the opposite. It was 
found, among other things, that the nearer a gas 
was to its liquefying point, the greater was the 
deviation from the supposed law, and the con- 
clusion was jumped at that the law was true for 

^ Such fictions, however, are (I need not say) quite necessary 
as our only means of thinking out, however imperfectly, the 
problems before us (1920). 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

perfect gases only. This idea of a perfect gas of 
course involved the assumption that gases, as they 
get farther and farther removed from their liqui- 
fying point, reach at last a fixed and stable condi- 
tion, when no further change in their qualities 
takes place — at any rate for a very long time — and 
Boyle's law was supposed to apply to this condition. 
Since then, however, it has been discovered that 
there is an ultra-gaseous state of matter, and on 
all sides it is becoming abundantly clear that the 
change in the condition of matter from the liquid 
state to the ultra-gaseous state is perfectly continuous 
— through all modifications of liquidity and con- 
densation and every degree of perfection and imper- 
fection of gasiness to the utmost rarity of the 
fourth state. At what point, then, does Boyle's 
law really apply ? Obviously it applies exactly 
at only one point in this long ascending scale — at 
one metaphysical point — and at every other point 
it is incorrect. But no gas in Nature remains or 
can be maintained just at one point in the scale 
of its innumerable changes. Consequently, all 
we can say is that out of the innumerable different 
states that gases are capable of, and the innumerable 
different laws of compressibility which they there- 
fore follow, we could theoretically find one state 
to which would correspond the law of compressi- 
bility called Boyle's law ; and that, if we could 
preserve a gas in that state (which we can't), Boyle's 
law really would be true just for that case. In 
other words, the law is metaphysical. It has no 
real existence. It is a convenient view or fiction, 


Modern Science : A Criticism 

arising in the first place out of ignorance, and only 
tenable as long as further observation is limited 
or wilfully ignored. 

This then is the Method of Science. It con- 
sists in forming a law or statement by only looking 
at a small portion of the facts ; then, when the 
other facts come in, the law or statement gradually 
fades away again. Conrad Gessner and other 
early zoologists began by classifying animals accord- 
ing to the number of their horns ! Political 
Economy begins by classifying social action under 
a law of Supply and Demand. When people be- 
lieved that the earth was flat, they generalised the 
facts connected with the fall of heavy bodies into 
a conception of " up and down." These were 
two opposite directions in space. Heavy bodies 
took the " downward " ; it was their nature. But 
in time, and as fresh facts came in, it became 
impossible to group animals any longer by their 
horns ; " up and down " ceased to have a meaning 
when it was known that the earth was round. Then 
fresh laws and statements had to be formed. 
In the last-mentioned case — it being conceived 
that the earth was the centre of the universe — the 
new law supposed was that all heavy bodies tended 
to the centre of the earth as such. This was all 
right and satisfactory for a while ; but presently 
it appeared that the earth was not the centre of the 
universe, and that some heavy bodies — such as 
the satellities of Jupiter — did not in fact tend 
to the centre of the earth at all. Another lump 
of ignorance (which had enabled the old generalisa- 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

tion to exist) was removed, and a new generalisa- 
tion, that of universal gravitation, was after a time 
formed. But it is probable that this law is only 
conceived of as true through our ignorance ; nay 
it is certain that belief in its truth presents the 
gravest difficulties. 

In fact here we come upon an important point. 
It is sometimes said that, granting the above argu- 
ments and the partiality and defectiveness of the 
laws of Science, still they are approximations to 
the truth, and as each fresh fact is introduced the 
consequent modification of the old law brings us 
nearer and nearer to a limit of rigorous exactness 
which we shall reach at last if we only have patience 
enough. But is this so } What kind of rigorous 
statement shall we reach when we have got all 
the facts in ? Remembering that Nature is one^ 
and that if we try to get a rigorous statement for 
one set of phenomena (as say the lunar theory) 
by isolating them from the rest, we are thereby 
condemning ourselves beforehand to a false 
conclusion, is it not evident that our limit is at all 
times infinitely far off } If one knew all the facts 
relating to a given inquiry except two or three, 
one might reasonably suppose that one was near 
a limit of exactness in one's knowledge ; but 
seeing that in our investigation of Nature we only 
know two or three, so to speak, out of a million, it 
is obvious that at any moment the fresh law arising 
from increased experience may completely upset 
our former calculations. There is a difference 
between approximating to a wall and approximat- 

Modern Science : A Criticism 

ing to the North Star. In the one case you are 
tending to a speedy conclusion of your labours, 
in the other case you are only going in a certain 
direction. The theories of Science generally belong 
under the second head. They mark the direction 
which the human mind is taking at the moment 
in question, but they mark no limits. At each 
point the appearance of a limit is introduced — which 
becomes, like a mirage in the desert, an object 
of keen pursuit ; but the limit is not really there 
— it is only an effect of the standpoint, and disap- 
pears again after a time as the observer moves. 
In the case of gravitation there is for the moment 
an appearance of finality in the law of the inverse 
square of the distance, but this arises probably 
from the fact that the law is derived from a limited 
area of observation only, namely the movements 
(at great distances from each other) of some of the 
heavenly bodies. ^ The Cavendish and Schehallien 
experiments do not show more than that the law 
at ordinary distances on the earth's surface does 
not vary very much from the above ; while the so- 

' It is not generally realised how feeble a force gravitation is. 
It is calculated (Encycl. Brit., Art. Gravitation) that two masses, 
each weighing 415,000 tons, and placed a mile apart, would exert 
on each other an attractive force of only one pound. If one, 
therefore, was as far from the other as the moon is from the earth, 
their attraction would only amount to Tygoooooooo^^ °^^ pound. 
This is a small force to govern the movement of a body weighing 
415,000 tons ! and it is easy to see that a shght variation in the 
law of the force might for a long period pass undetected, though 
in the course of hundreds of centuries it might become of the 
greatest importance. 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

called molecular forces compel us (unless we make 
the very artificial assumption that a variety of 
attractions and repulsions co-exist in matter along- 
side of, and yet totally distinct from, the attraction 
of gravitation) to suppose very great modifications 
of the law for small distances. In fact, as we 
saw of Boyle's law before — the Newtonian law 
is probably metaphysical — true under certain 
limited conditions — and the appearance of finality 
has been given to it by the fact that our observa- 
tions have been made under such or similar condi- 
tions. When we extend our observation into 
quite other regions of space, the law of the 
inverse square ceases to appear as even an 
approximation to the truth — as, for instance, the 
law of the inverse jijth power has been thought 
to be nearer the mark for small molecular 

And indeed the state of the great theories of 
Science in the present day — the confusion in which 
the Atomic theory of physics finds itself, the dismal 
insufficiency of the Darwin theory of the survival 
of the fittest ; the collapse in late times of one of 
the fundamental theories of Astronomy, namely 
that of the stability of the lunar and planetary 
orbits ; the cataclysms and convulsions which 
Geology seems just now to be undergoing ; the 
appalling and indeed insurmountable difficulties 
which attach to the Undulatory theory of Light ; 
the final wreck and abandonment of the Value- 
theory, the foundation-theory of Political Economy 
— all these things do not seem to point to very 


Modern Science : A Criticism 

near limits of rigorous exactness ! An impreg- 
nable theory, or one nearing the limit of impreg- 
nability, is in fact as great an absurdity as an 
impregnable armour-plate. Certainly, given the 
cannon-balls, you can generally find an armour- 
plate which will be proof against them ; but given 
the armour-plate, you can always find cannon- 
balls which will smash it up. 

The method of Science, as being a method of 
artificial limitation or actual ignorance, is curiously 
illustrated by a consideration of its various branches. 
I have taken some examples from Astronomy, 
which is considered the most exact of the physical 
sciences. Now does it not seem curious that 
Astronomy — the study of the heavenly bodies, 
which are the most distant from us of all bodies, 
and most difficult to observe — should yet be the 
most perfect of the sciences } Yet the reason is 
obvious. Astronomy is the most perfect science 
because we know least about it — because our ignorance 
of the actual phenomena is most profound. Situated 
in fact as we are, on a speck in space, with our 
observations limited to periods of time which, 
compared with the stupendous flights of the stars, 
are merely momentary and evanescent, we are in 
somewhat the position of a mole surveying a rail- 
way track and the flight of locomotives. And 
as a man seeing a very small arc of a very vast 
circle easily mistakes it for a straight line, so we 
are easily satisfied with cheap deductions and solu- 
tions in Astronomy which a more extensive 
experience would cause us to reject. The man 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

may have a long way to go along his " straight 
line " before he discovers that it is a curve ; he 
may have much farther to go along his curve 
before he discovers that it is not a circle ; and 
much farther still to go before he finds out whe- 
ther it is an ellipse or a spiral or a parabola, or 
none of these ; yet what curve it is will make 
an enormous difference in his ultimate destination. 
So with the astronomer ; and yet Astronomy is 
allowed to pass as an exact science ! ^ 

Well then, as in Astronomy we get an " exact 

' As another instance of the same thing, let me quote a passage 
from Maxwell's Theory of Heat, p. 3 1 ; the italics are mine : 
" In our description of the physical properties of bodies as related 
to heat we have begun with solid bodies, as those which we can 
most easily handle, and have gone on to liquids, which we can 
keep in open vessels, and have now come to gases, which will 
escape from open vessels, and which are generally invisible. This 
is the order which is most natural in our first study of these different 
states. But as soon as we have been made familiar with the most 
prominent features of these different conditions of matter the most 
scientific course of study is in the reverse order, beginning with gases, 
on account of the greater simplicity of their laws, then advancing 
to liquids, the more complex laws of which are much more im- 
perfectly known, and concluding with the little that has been hitherto 
discovered about the constitution of solid bodies." That is to 
say that Science finds it easier to work among gases — which are 
invisible and which we can know little about — than among solids, 
which we are familiar with and which we can easily handle ! 
This seems a strange conclusion, but it will be found to represent 
a common procedure of Science — the truth probably being that 
the laws of gases are not one whit simpler than the laws of liquids 
and solids, but that on account of our knowing so much less about 
gases it is easier for us io feign laws in their case than in the case 
of solids, and less easy for our errors to be detected. 


Modern Science : A Criticism 

science," because the facts and phenomena are 
on such a tremendous scale that we only see a 
minute portion of them — just a few details so to 
speak — and our ignorance therefore allows us to 
dogmatise ; so at the other end of the scale in 
Chemistry and Physics we get quasi-exact sciences, 
because the facts and phenomena are on such a 
minute scale that we overlook all the details and see 
only certain general effects here and there. When 
a solution of cupric sulphate is treated with ammonia, 
a mass of flocculent green precipitate is formed. 
No one has the faintest notion of all the various 
movements and combinations of the molecules 
of these two fluids which accompany the appearance 
of the precipitate. They are no doubt very 
complex. But among all the changes that are 
taking place, one change has the advantage of 
being visible to the eye, and the chemist singles 
that out as the main phenomenon. So chemistry 
at large consists in a few, very few, facts taken at 
random as it were (or because they happen to be 
of such a nature as to be observable) out of the 
enormous mass of facts really concerned : and 
because of their fewness the chemist is able to 
arrange them, as he thinks, in some order, that 
is, to generalise about them. But it is certain 
as can be that he only has to extend the number of 
his facts, or his powers of observation, to get all 
his generalisations upset. The same may be said 
of magnetism, light, heat, and the other physical 
sciences ; but it is not necessary to prove in detail 
what is sufficiently obvious. 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

But now, roughly speaking, there is a third 
region of human observation — a region which 
does not, like Astronomy (and Geology), lie so far 
beyond and above us that we only see a very small 
portion of it ; nor, like Chemistry and Physics, so 
far below us and under such minute conditions of 
space and time that we can only catch its general 
effects ; but which lies more on a level with man 
himself — the so-called organic world — the study 
of man, as an individual and in society, his history, 
his development, the" study of the animals, the 
plants even, and the laws of life — the sciences of 
Biology, Sociology, History, Psychology, and the 
rest. Now this region is obviously that which 
man knows most of. I don't say that he genera- 
lises most about it, but he knows the facts best. 
For one observation that he makes of the habits 
and behaviour of the stars, or of chemical solutions 
— for one observation in the remote regions of 
Astronomy or Chemistry — he makes thousands 
and millions of the habits and behaviour of his 
fellowmen, and hundreds and thousands of those 
of the animals and plants. Is it not curious then 
that in this region he is least sure, least dogmatic, 
most doubtful whether there be a law or no ? 
Or, rather, is it not quite in accord with our con- 
tention, namely that Science, like an uninformed 
boy, is most definite and dogmatic just where 
actual knowledge is least. 

It will however be replied that the phenomena 
of living beings are far more complex than the 
phenomena of Astronomy or Physics — and that 


Modern Science : A Criticism 

is the reason why exact science makes so little way 
with them. Though man knows many million 
times more about the habits of his fellow-men than 
about the habits of the stars, yet the former subject 
is so many million times more complicated than 
the latter that all his additional knowledge does 
not avail him. This is the plea. Yet it does not 
hold water. It is an entire assumption to say that 
the phenomena of Astronomy are less complicated 
than the phenomena of vitality. A moment's 
thought will show that the phenomena of Astronomy 
are in reality infinitely complex. Take the move- 
ment of the moon : even with our present acquain- 
tance with that subject we know that it has some 
relation to the position and mass of the earth, 
including its ocean tides ; also to the position and 
mass of the sun ; also to the position and mass of 
every one of the planets ; also of the comets, 
numerous and unknown as they are ; also the 
meteoric rings ; and finally of all the stars ! 
The problem, as everyone knows, is absolutely 
insoluble even for the shortest period ; but when 
the element of Time enters in, and we consider 
that to do anything like justice to the problem 
in an astronomical sense we should have to solve 
it for at least a million years — during which interval 
the earth, sun, and other bodies concerned would 
themselves have been changing their relative posi- 
tions, it becomes obvious that the whole question 
is infinitely complex — and yet this is only a small 
fragment of Astronomy. To debate, therefore, 
whether the infinite complexity of the movements 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

of the stars is greater or less than the infinite com- 
plexity of the phenomena of life, is like debating 
the precedence of the three persons of the Trinity, 
or whether the Holy Ghost was begotten or pro- 
ceeding : we are talking about things which we 
do not understand. 

Nature is one ; she is not, we may guess, less 
profound and wonderful in one department than 
another ; but from the fact that we live under 
certain conditions and limitations we see most 
deeply into that portion which is, as it were, on 
the same level with us. In humanity we look 
her in the face ; there our glance pierces, and we 
see that she is profound and wonderful beyond all 
imagination ; what we learn there is the most 
valuable that we can learn. In the regions where 
Science rejoices to disport itself we see only the 
skirts of her garments, so to speak, and though we 
measure them never so precisely, we still see them 
and nothing more. 

There is another point, however, of which much 
is often made as a plea for the substantial accuracy 
of the scientific laws and generalisations, namely 
that they enable us to predict events. But this 
need not detain us long. J. S. Mill in his " Logic " 
has pointed out — and a little thought makes it 
obvious — that the success of a prediction does 
not prove the truth of the theory on which it is 
founded. It only proves the theory was good 
enough for that prediction. 

There was a time when the sun was a god going 
forth in his chariot every morning, and there was 


Modern Science : A Criticism 

a time when the earth was the centre of the universe, 
and the sun a ball of fire revolving round it. In 
those times men could predict with certainty that 
the sun would rise next morning, and could even 
name the hour of its appearance ; but we do not 
therefore think that their theories were true. 
When Adams and Leverrier foretold the appear- 
ance of Neptune in a certain part of the sky, they 
made a brief prediction to an unknown planet 
from the observed relations of the movements of 
the known planets ; that does not show, however, 
that the grand generalisation of these movements, 
called the " law of gravitation," is correct. It 
merely shows that it did well enough for this very 
brief step — brief indeed compared with the real 
problems of Astronomy, for which latter it is 
probably quite inadequate. 

Tycho Brahe, excellent astronomer as he was, 
kept as we saw to the epicycle theory. He imagined 
that the moon's path round the earth was a fixed 
combination of cycle and epicycle. Kepler in- 
troduced the conception of the ellipse. Later 
on the motion of the perigee and other deviations 
compelled the abandonment of the ellipse and the 
supposition of an endless curve, similar to an ellipse 
at any one point, and maintaining a fixed mean 
distance from the earth, but never returning on 
itself or making a definite closed figure of any 
kind. Finally the researches of Mr. George 
Darwin have destroyed the conception of the fixed 
mean distance, and introduced that of a continually 
enlarging spiral. Certainly no four theories could 

97 G 

Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

well be more distinct from each other than these ; 
yet if an eclipse had to be calculated for next year 
it would scarcely matter which theory was used. 
The truth is that the actual problem is so vast that 
a prediction of a few years in advance only touches 
the fringe of it so to speak; yet if the fulfilment of 
the prediction were taken as a proof of the theory 
in each of these different cases, it would lead in 
the end to the most hopelessly contradictory 

The success of a prediction therefore only 
shows that the theory on which it is founded has 
had practical value so far as a working hypothesis. 
As working hypotheses, and as long as they are 
kept down to brief steps which can be verified^ 
the scientific theories are very valuable — indeed 
we could not do without them ; but when they 
are treated as objective facts — when, for instance, 
the '' law of gravitation " — derived as it is from a 
brief study of the heavenly bodies — has a universal 
truth ascribed to it, and is made to apply to pheno- 
mena extending over millions of years, and to 
warrant unverifiable prophecies about the plane- 
tary orbits, or statements about the age of the earth 
and the duration of the solar system — all one 
can say is that those who argue so are flying off 
at a tangent from actual facts. For as the tangent 
represents the direction of a curve over a small 
arc, so these theories represent the bearing of 
facts well enough over a small region of observa- 
tion ; but as following the tangent we soon lose 
the curve, so following these theories for any dis- 


Modern Science : A Criticism 

tance beyond the region of actual observation we 
speedily part company with facts. ^ 

To proceed with a few more words about the 
general method of Science. Science passes from 
phenomena to laws, from individual details v/hich 
can be seen and felt to large generalisations of an 
intangible and phantom-like character. That is 
to say, that for convenience of thought we classify 
objects. How is this classification effected ? It 
is effected through the perception of identity amid 
difference. Among a lot of objects I perceive 
certain attributes in common ; this group of 
common attributes serves, so to speak, as a band 
to tie these objects together with — into a bundle 
convenient for thought. I give a name to the 
band, and that serves to denote any unit of the 
bundle by. Thus perceiving common attributes 
among a lot of dogs — as in an example already 
given — I give the name foxhound to this group 
of attributes, and thenceforth use the name fox- 
hound to connect these objects by in my mind ; 
again perceiving other common attributes among 

I All our thoughts, theories, " laws," etc., may perhaps be 
said to touch Nature — as the tangent touches the curve — at a point. 
They give a direction — ^and are true — at that point. But make 
the slightest move, and they all have to be reconstructed. The 
tangents are infinite in number, but the curve is one. This may 
not only illustrate the relation of Nature to Science, but also of 
Art to the materials it uses. The poet radiates thoughts : but 
he sets no store by them. He knows his thoughts are not true 
in themselves, but they touch the Truth. His lines are the envelope 
of the curve which is his poem. 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

other similar objects, I invent the word greyhound 
to denote these latter by. The concept foxhound 
differs from the objects which it denotes, in this 
respect that these latter are (as we say) real dogs 
with thousands and thousands of attributes each : 
one of them has a broken tooth, another is nearly 
all white, another answers to the name " Sally," 
and so on ; while the concept is only an imaginary 
form in my mind, with only a few attributes and 
no individual peculiarities — a kind of tiny G.C.M. 
arising from the contemplation of a long row of 
big figures. 

Now having created these concepts " foxhound," 
** greyhound," and a lot of other similar ones, 
I find that they in their turn have a few attributes 
in common and thus give rise to a new concept 
'* dog." Of course this " dog " is more of an 
abstraction than ever, the concept of a concept. 
In fact the peculiarity of this whole process is 
that, as sometimes stated, the broader the generalisa- 
tion becomes the less is its depth ; or in other 
words and obviously, that as the number of objects 
compared increases, the number of attributes 
common to them all decreases. Ultimately as 
we saw at the beginning, when a sufficient number 
of objects are taken in, the concept (" dog " or 
whatever it may be) fades away and ceases to have 
any meaning. This therefore is the dilemma of 
Science and indeed of all human knowledge, 
that in carrying out the process which is peculiar 
to it, it necessarily leaves the dry ground of reality 
for the watery region of abstractions, which ab- 


Modern Science : A Criticism 

stractions become ever more tenuous and ungrasp- 
able the farther it goes, and ultimately fade into 
mere ghosts. Nevertheless the process is a quite 
necessary one, for only by it can the mind deal 
with things. 

To dwell for a moment over this last point : 
it is clear that every object has relation to every 
other object in the world — exists in fact only in 
virtue of such relation to other objects ; it has 
therefore an infinite number of attributes. The 
mind consequently is powerless to deal with such 
object — it cannot by any possibility think it. In 
order to deal with it, the mind is forced to single 
out a few of its attributes (the method of ignorance 
or abstraction already alluded to) — that is a few 
of its relations to other objects, and to think them 
first. The others it will think afterwards — all 
in good time. In thus stripping or abstracting 
the great mass of its attributes from our object, 
and leaving only a few, which it combines into a 
concept, the mind practically abandons the real 
article and takes up with a shadow ; but in return 
for this it gets something which it can handle, 
which is light to carry about, and which, like 
paper-money, for the time and under certain 
conditions does really represent value. The only 
danger is lest it — the mind — carried away by 
the extensive applicability of the partial concept 
which it has thus formed, should credit it with 
an actual value — should project it on the back- 
ground of the external world and ascribe to it 
that reality which belongs only to objects them- 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

selves, i.e., to things embodying an infinite range 
of attributes. 

The peculiar method of Science is now clear to 
us, and can be abundantly illustrated from modern 
results. Our experience consists in sensations, we 
feel the weight of heavy bodies, we see them fall 
when let go, we have sensations of heat and cold, 
light and darkness, and so forth. But these sensa- 
tions are more or less local and variable from 
man to man, and we naturally seek to find some 
common measure of them, by which we can talk 
about and describe them exactly, and independently 
of the peculiarities of individual observers. Thus 
we seek to find some common phenomenon which 
underlies (as we say) the sensations of heat and 
cold, or of light and darkness, or something which 
explains (i.e. is always present in) the case of 
falling bodies — and to do this we adopt the method 
of generalisation above described, i.e., we observe 
a great number of individual cases and then see 
what qualities or attributes they have in common. 
So far good. But it is just here that the fallacy 
of the ordinary scientific procedure comes in ; 
for, forgetting that these common qualities are 
mere abstractions from the real phenomena we 
credit them with a real existence, and regard the 
actual phenomena as secondary results, ** effects " 
or what-not of these " causes." This in plain 
language is putting the cart before the horse — or 
rather the shadow before the man. Thus finding 
that a vast number of variously shaped and coloured 
bodies tend to fall towards the earth, we erect this 


Modern Science : A Criticism 

common attribute of falling into an independent 
existence which we call " attraction " or " gravita- 
tion " — and ultimately posit a universal gravitation 
acting on all bodies in Nature 1 — or finding that a 
number of different substances, such as water, 
air, wood, etc., convey to us the sensation we call 
sound, and that in all these cases the common 
element is vibration, we detach the attribute 
vibration, credit it with a separate existence, and 
speak of it as the cause of sound. But though we 
may thus think of the shadow as separate from 
the man, the shadow cannot be separate from the 
man ; and though we may try to think of the 
falling or the vibration as separate from the wood 
or the stone, such falling and vibration cannot 
exist apart from these and other such materials, 
and the effort to speak of it as so existing ends in 
mere nonsense. More strange still is the fatuity, 
when, as in the case of the undulatory Theory 
of light or the Atomic theory of physics, the con- 
cepts thus erected into actualities are composed 
of purely imaginary attributes — of which no one 
has had any experience — an undulatory ether in 
the one case, a hard and perfectly elastic atom in 
the other. The total result is of course — just 
what we see — Science landing itself in pure absurdi- 
ties in every direction. Beginning by detaching 
the attribute of falling from the bodies that fall 
— beginning that is by an abstraction, which of 
course is also a falsity — it generalises and generalises 
this abstraction till at last it reaches a perfectly 
generalised absurdity and thing without any 

J 03 

Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

meaning — the law of gravitation. ^ The statement 
that ** every particle in the universe attracts every 
other particle with a force proportional to the mass 
of the attracting particle and inversely proportional 
to the square of the distance between the two " 
is devoid of meaning — the human mind can give 
no definite meanings to the words " mass," 
*' attract," and " force," which do not overlap 
and stultify each other. The law in every way 
baffles intelligence. Newton, who invented it, 
declared that no philosophic mind would suppose 
that bodies could thus act on one another "without 
the mediation of anything else by and through 
which their action might be conveyed ; " scientific 
men to-day are fain to see that a material mediation 
of this kind would only make the law still more 
remote from our comprehension than it already is, 
while, on the other hand, an immaterial mediation 
or a fourth-dimensional mediation, such as some 
propose, would simply remove the problem out 
of the regions of scientific analysis.^ Again, the 

' See the report of the joint meeting of the Royal Society and 
the Royal Astronomical Society, November 6, 1919, when Ein- 
stein's theory was discussed. 

2 It is obvious that the Einstein theory, in which Time enters 
as a kind of fourth dimension in relation to Space, removes us 
at once out of the whole field of ordinary scientific reasoning and 
lands us, so to speak, in a new world. The nature of Space (or 
of the universal medium, whatever it is) in any region — its 
possible fundamental accelerations there, its " curvature " or non- 
Euclidean character, and so forth — is supposed, according to this 
theory, to vary with the amount of matter in, or density of, 
that region ; and the movements of bodies arc consequently 

J 04 

Modern Science : A Criticism 

form of the law is declared to be the inverse square of 
the distance ; but this is the law by the nature 
of space itself of any perfect radiation, and if 
true of gravitation involves the conclusion that that 
radiation of force (whatever its nature may be) 
takes place without loss or dissipation of any kind. 
This would make gravitation absolutely unique 
among phenomena. More than this, its propaga- 
tion is supposed to be instantaneous over the most 
enormous distances of space, and to take place 
always unhindered and unretarded, whatever be 
the number or the nature of the bodies between ! 
What can be more clear than that the law is simply 
metaphysical — a projection into a monstrous uni- 
versality and abstraction, of partially understood 
phenomena in a particular region of observation — 
a Brocken-shadow on the background of Nature of 
the observer's own momentary attitude of thought } 
Again, the undulatory theory of Light. Study- 
ing the phenomena of a vast number of coloured 

supposed to take on the characters (accelerations, etc.,) which 
we ascribe to the action of Gravitation. Gravitation in fact 
in any region is the manifestation in Time of the attributes of 
the universal Medium in that region — which latter again is 
dependent on the degree of Matter present. Thus, Matter, 
Time, and Space are one phenomenon. 

The whole Einstein theory, in fact, is a device to present 
these three Protean and variable elements of all material exist- 
ence (Matter, Time and Space) as so far involved and inter- 
laced in each other that they form always an absolute and 
complete unity. As such the theory is no doubt suggestive, 
and along the line of future speculation : but it awaits corro- 
boration. If corroborated it will point the way to a new 
conception of the Universe. 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

and bright bodies, Science finds that it can think 
about these phenomena — can generaUse and tie 
them into bundles best by assuming that the bodies 
are all in a state of vibration ; a vibration so 
minute that (unlike the vibrations connected with 
Sound) it cannot be directly perceived. So far 
good. There is no harm in the assumption of 
vibration, as long as it is understood to be a mere 
assumption for a temporary convenience of thought. 
But now Science goes farther than this, and not 
only supposes a common attribute to all visible 
bodies, but credits this common attribute with 
a real existence independent of the visible bodies 
in which it was supposed to inhere — and makes 
this the cause of their vi3ibility ! Obviously now 
a common and universal medium is required for 
this common and universal assumed vibration (just 
as Newton required a medium for his universal 
** falling ") — and so, hey presto ! we have the 
Undulatory Ether. And having got it we find 
that to fulfil our requirements it must have a 
pressure of 17 million million pounds on the 
square inch, and yet be so rare and tenuous as not 
to hinder the lightest breath of air ; that while 
it is thus rare enough to surpass all our powers of 
direct scrutiny, its vibrations must yet be capable 
of agitating and breaking up the solidest bodies ; 
that it must pass freely through some dense and 
close structures like glass, and yet be excluded 
by some light and porous, like cork, and so on and 
on! In fact we find that it is unthinkable. Against 
this adamantine, impalpable Ether, as against 


Modern Science : A Criticism 

this instantaneous, untranslatable gravitation, 
Science bangs its devoted head in vain. Flaving 
created these absurdities by the method of " per- 
sonification of abstractions " ^ or the " reification 
of concepts," 2 it seriously and in all good faith 
tries to understand them ; having dressed up its 
own Mumbo Jumbo (which it once jeered at 
religion for doing) it piously shuts its eyes and 
endeavours to believe in it. 

The Atomic Theory affords a good example 
of the " method of ignorance." When we try 
to think about material objects generally — to 
generalise about them — that is, to find some attribute 
or attributes common to them, we are at first 
puzzled. They present such an immense variety. 
But after a time, by dint of stripping off or abstract- 
ing all such attributes or qualities as we think we 
perceive in one body and not in another — as for 
example, redness, blueness, warmth, saltness, life, 
intelligence, or v/hat not — we find an attribute 
left, namely resistance to touch, which is common 
to all material bodies. This quality in the body 
we call " mass," and since it is only known by 
motion, mass and motion become correlative 
attributes which we find useful to class bodies by, 
not because they represent the various bodies 
particularly well, but because they are found in 
all bodies ; just as you might class people by their 
boots — not because boots are a very valuable 
method of classification, but simply because every 

1 J. S. Mill. 

2 See Stallo's excellent Concepts of Modern Physics. 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

one wears boots of one kind or another. So far 
there is no great harm done. But now having 
by the method of ignorance thought away all the 
qualities of bodies, except the two correlatives of 
mass and motion, we set about to explain the pheno- 
mena of Nature generally by these two " thinks " 
that are left. We credit these " thinks " (mass 
and motion) with an independent existence and 
proceed to derive the rest of phenomena from 
them. The proceeding of course is absurd, and 
ends by exposing its own absurdity. Thinking 
of mass and motion as existing in the various bodies 
apart from colour, smell, and so forth — which of 
course is not the case — we combine the two attributes 
into one concept, the atom, which we thus assume 
to exist in all bodies. The atom has neither colour, 
smell, warmth, taste, life or intelligence ; it has 
only mass and motion ; for it came by the method 
of divesting our thought of everything hut mass 
and motion. It is a projection of a " think " 
upon the background of nature. And it is an 
absurdity. No such thing exists in all the wide 
universe as mass and motion divested from colour, 
smell, warmth, life and intelligence. The atom 
is unthinkable. It is perfectly hard and it is per- 
fectly elastic — which is the same as saying that it 
bends and it doesn't bend at the same time ; it 
has form, and it hasn't form ; it has affinities and 
yet is perfectly indifferent. To justify to men 
the wa)'S of their Mumbo Jumbo has sorely exer- 
cised the votaries of the Atom. One philosopher 
says that it is mere matter, passive, exercising no 

1 08 

Modern Science : A Criticism 

force but resistance ; another says that it is a centre 
of force, without matter ; a third suggests that it is 
not itself matter, but only a vortex in other matter ! 
All agree that it is not an object of sense, and there 
remains no conclusion but that it is nonsense ! ^ 

' See, for instance, the last new thing in this style — the Helm- 
holtz molecule as improved upon by Sir William Thomson ; 
it is described as follows : " A heavy mass connected by massless 
springs with a massless enclosing shell ; or there may be several 
shells enclosing each other connected by springs with a dense mass 
in the centre (far more dense than the ether)." It is not, of course, 
seriously maintained that this nonsensical creation exists — but that 
if it did exist it would account for certain unexplained phenomena 
in the disperson of light, etc. 

Later still (1920) we have the following delightful verdict 
on the Structure of the Atom, given by Sir Ernest Rutherford — 
and which I commend to all lovers of clear thinking : — 

"The Bakerian Lecture was delivered yesterday before the Royal 
Society by Sir Ernest Rutherford, whose subject was ' The Nuclear 
Construction of the Atom.' He said that during recent years 
much attention had been paid to the nature and structure of atoms. 
The atomic theory of matter had been definitely proved. The 
mass of the individual atoms, and the number in any given weight 
of matter, were now known with considerable accuracy. Not 
only was matter known to be made up of atoms, but electricity 
was also atomic in nature, and there was a definite unit of electrical 
charge which could not further be subdivided. The negative 
electron, which was a constituent of all atoms of matter, was 
probably nothing more than an isolated unit of negative electricity, 
and its small mass was electrical in origin. It had long been con- 
sidered probable that the atom is an electrical structure, consisting 
of positive and negative particles, held in equilibrium by electric 
or magnetic forces. In recent years evidence had accumulated 
that an atom consists of a positively charged nucleus surrounded at 
a distance by a distribution of electrons to make it electrically 
neutral." (From The Morning Post of June 4, 1920.) 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

And so on in all directions. Human thought 
flying off at its tangents from Nature lands itself 
in infinite nothings afar off, poor ghostly skeletons 
and abstractions from Nature — which indeed is 
all right, for human thought as yet can only see 
ghosts and not realities ; but let there be no 
mistake, let these ghosts not be mistaken for 
realities — for they are not even compatible with 
each other. The Atom that suits the physicist 
does not suit the chemist. The Ether that does 
for the vehicle of Light will not do for the vehicle 
of universal Gravitation. 

It would be hardly worth while entering into 
these criticisms, were it not evident that Science 
in modern tinies, either tacitly or explicitly, has 
been seeking, as I said at the beginning, to enounce 
facts independent of Man, the observer. Seeing 
that the ordinary statements of daily life are obviously 
inexact and relative to the observer — charged 
with human sensation in fact — Science has naturally 
tried to produce something which should be 
exact and independent of human sensation ; but 
here it has of course condemned itself beforehand 
to failure ; for no statement of isolated phenomena 
or groups of phenomena ca>i be exact except by 
the method of ignorance aforesaid, and no statement 
obviously can be really independent of human 
sensation. When a man says // is cold^ his state- 
ment, it must be confessed, is deplorably human 
and vague. // — what is that ? Is — do you mean 
is ? or do you mean jcels^ appears ? Cold — in what 


Modern Science : A Criticism 

sense ? Cold to yourself, or to other people, or 
to polar bears, or by the thermometer ? And so 
on. Science therefore steps in with an air of 
authority and sets him right. It says the tempera- 
ture is 30<' Fahrenheit^ as if to settle the matter. 
But does this really settle the matter } Temperature 
— who knows what that is } What is the scientific 
definition of it } I find (Clerk-Maxwell's Theory 
of Heat, p. 2.) " the temperature of a body is a 
quantity which indicates how hot or how cold the 
body is." This sounds very much like saying, 
" the colour of a body is a quantity which indicates 
how blue, red, or yellow the body is." It does 
not bring us much farther on our way. But 
in the next paragraph Maxwell shows the object 
of his definition (which of course is only preliminary) 
by saying, " By the use, therefore, of the word 
temperature, we fix in our minds the conviction 
that it is possible not only to feel, but to measure^ 
how hot a body is." That is to say he clearly 
maintains that it is possible to find an absolute 
standard of hotness or coldness — or rather of the 
unknown thing called temperature — outside of 
ourselves and independent of human sensation. 
When the man said he was cold he was probably 
just describing his own sensations, but here Science 
indicates that it is in search of something which 
has an independent existence of its own, and which 
therefore when found we can measure exactly 
and once for all. W^hat then is that thing } 
What is temperature } say, what is it } 

We cudgel our brains in vain. Perhaps the 

Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

remainder of the sentence will help us. ** The 
temperature is 30° Fahrenheit." ** The unknown 
thing is thirty degrees." What then is a degree ? 
That is the next question. When the Theory of 
Heat went out from sensation and left it behind, 
one of its first landing places was in the expansion 
of liquids — as in thermometer tubes. Here for 
some time was thought to be a satisfactory register 
of " temperature." But before long it became 
apparent that the degree — Fahrenheit, Reaumur, 
or what-not — was an entirely arbitrary thing, 
also that it was not the same ^ thing at one end 
of the scale as the other, and finally that the scale 
itself had no starting point ! This was awkward, 
so a move was made to the air thermometer, and 
there was some talk about an absolute zero and 
absolute temperatures ; it was thought that the 
Unknown thing showed itself most clearly and 
simply in the expansion of air and other gases, 
and that the " degree " might fiirly be measured 
in terms of this expansion. But in a little time 
this kind of thermometer — chiefly because no 
gas turned out to be " theoretically perfect " — 
broke down, absolute zero and all, and another 
step had to be made — namely, to the dynamical 
theory. It was announced that the Unknown 
thing might be measured in terms of mechanical 
energy, and Joule at Manchester proclaimed that 

* The very fact alone that the degrees on a thermometer are 
ffua/ space divisions shows that they must bear a varying relation 
to the total volume of liquid as that expands from one end of the 
tube to the other. 

I 12 

Modern Science : A Criticism 

the work done by any quantity of water falling 
there a distance of 772 feet is capable of raising 
that water one degree Fahrenheit.^ Here seemed 
something definite. To measure temperature by 
mass and velocity, to measure a degree by the 
flight of a stone, or the heat in the human body 
by the fall of a factory chimney — if rather round- 
about and elusive of the main question — seemed 
at any rate promising of exact results 1 Unfortu- 
nately the difficulty was to pass from the theory 
to its application. The complicated nature of 
the problem, the " imperfection " of the gases 
and other bodies under consideration, the latent 
and specific heats to be allowed for, the elusive 
nature of heat in experiment, and the variable 
value of the degree itself — all render the con- 
clusions on this subject most precarious ; and the 
general equations connecting the Fahrenheit or 
other temperatures with a thermo-dynamic scale 
— while they become so unwieldy as to be practi- 
cally useless — are themselves after all only approxi- 

Finally, to give a last form to the mechanical 
theory of heat, the conception of flying atoms or 
molecules was introduced, and a number of neat 
generalisations were deduced from dynamical 
considerations. Of course it was inevitable, having 
once started with a mechanical theory, that one 
should arrive at the Atom some time or other — 
and (from what has already been said) it was also 

I A statement obviously applying — from what has been already 
said — at only one point in the scale. 

113 H 

Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

inevitable that the result should be unsatisfactory. 
It is sufficient to say that the molecular theory of 
heat is not in accordance with facts. Such things 
as the law of Charles and the law of Boyle, which 
according to it should be strictly accurate and of 
general application, are known to be true only 
over a most limited range. This failure of the 
theory may be said to arise partly from its being 
pursued by the statistical method ; but if, on 
the other hand, we were to try and follow out the 
individual movement of each molecule we should 
be landed in a problem far exceeding in complexity 
the wildest flights of Astronomy, and should 
have exchanged for the original difficulty about 
*' temperature " a difficulty far greater. 

The result of all this has been that notwithstand- 
ing the talk about energy and atoms. Science has 
sadly to confess that it can still give no valid mean- 
ing to the word temperature : the unknown thing 
is still unknown, the independent existence 
round the corner still escapes us. By the very 
effort to arrive at something independent of human 
sensation. Science has, in a roundabout way, 
arrived at an absurdity. When the man said 
he was cold, his statement — deplorably vague as 
it certainly was — had some meaning ; he was 
describing his feelings, or possibly he had seen 
some snow or some ice on the road ; but when, 
in the endeavour to leave out the human and to 
say something absolute, Science declared that 
the temperature was thirty degrees, it committed 
itself to a remark which possibly was exact in 


Modern Science : A Criticism 

form, but to which it has never given and never 
can give any definite meaning. ^ 

Similarly with other generalities of Science : 
the " law " of the Conservation of Energy, the 
" law " of the Survival of the Fittest — the more 
you think about them the less possible is it to give 
any really intelligible sense to them. The very 
word Fittest really begs the question which is 
under consideration, and the whole Conservation 
law is merely an attenuation of the already much 
attenuated " law " of Gravitation. The Chemical 
Elements themselves are nothing but the pro- 
jection on the external world of concepts consisting 
of three or four attributes each : they are not 
more real, but very much less real than the indi- 
vidual objects which they are supposed to account 
for ; and their " elementary " character is merely 
fictional. It probably is in fact as absurd to speak 
of pure carbon or pure gold, as of a pure monkey 
or a pure dog. There are no such things, except 
as they may be arrived at by arbitrary definition 
and the method of ignorance. 

In the search for exactness, then, Science has 
been continually led on to discard the human and 
personal elements in phenomena, in the hope 
of finding some residuum as it were behind them 

I I am not, of course, here arguing against the use of ther- 
mometers or other instruments for practical purposes. This is 
certainly the legitimate field of Science. But (as in the case of 
prediction before mentioned) the exactness of results obtained is 
a very different matter from the truth of the generalities which 
are supposed to underlie these results. In using a thermom.eter 
you need not even mention the word " temperature." 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

which should not be personal and human but 
absolute and invariable. And the tendency has 
been (hitherto) in all the sciences to get rid of 
such terms as blue, red, light, heavy, hot, cold, 
concord, discord, health, vitality, right, wrong, 
etc., and to rely on any less human elements dis- 
coverable in each case ; as for instance in Sound, 
to deal less and less with the judgments and sen- 
sations of the ear, and to rely more and more on 
measurements of lengths of strings, numbers of 
vibrations, etc. Each science has been (as far 
as possible) reduced to its lowest terms. Ethics 
has been made a question of utility and inherited 
experience. Political Economy has been exhausted 
of all conceptions of justice between man and man, 
of charity, affection, and the instinct of solidarity ; 
and has been founded on its lowest discoverable 
factor, namely self-interest. Biology has been 
denuded of the force of personality in plants, 
animals, and men ; the " self" here has been set 
aside, and the attempt made to reduce the science 
to a question of chemical and cellular affinities, pro- 
toplasm, and the laws of osmose. Chemical affinities, 
again, and all the wonderful phenomena of Physics 
are emptied down into a flight of atoms ; and the 
flight of atoms (and of astronomic orbs as well) 
is reduced to the laws of dynamics — which the 
student sitting in his chamber may write down on 
a piece of paper. Thus the idea, formulated by 
Comte, of a great scale of sciences arising from 
the simplest to the most complex, has tacitly under- 
lain modern scientific work. It — Science — has 


Modern Science : A Criticism 

sought to " explain " each stage by reference to 
a lower stage — " blueness " by vibrations, and 
vibrations by flying atoms — the human always 
by the sub-human. Going out from humanity 
dissatisfied, it has wandered through the animal 
and vegetable kingdoms, through the regions of 
Chemistry and Physics, into that of Mechanics. 
** Here at last, in Mechanics, is something outside 
humanity, something exact in itself, something 
substantial," it has said. ** Let us build again on 
this as on a foundation, and in time we shall find 
out what humanity is." This I say has been the 
dream of Modern Science ; yet the fallacy of it 
is obvious. We have not got outside the human, 
but only to the outermost verge of it. Mass 
and motion, which in this process are taken to 
be real entities and the first progenitors of all 
phenomena, are simply the last abstractions of 
sensible experience, and our emptiest concepts. 
The material explanation of the universe is simply 
an attempt to account for phenomena by those 
attributes which appear to us to be common to 
them all — which is, as said before, like accounting 
for men by their boots : — it may be possible to 
get an exact formula this way, but its contents have 
little or no meaning. 

The whole process of Science and the Comtian 
classification of its branches — regarded thus as 
an attempt to explain Man by Mechanics — is 
a huge vicious circle. It professes to start with 
something simple, exact, and invariable, and from 
this point to mount step by step till it comes to 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

Man himself ; but indeed it starts with Man. 
It plants itself on sensations low down (mass, 
motion, etc.), and endeavours by means of them 
to explain sensations high up, which reminds one 
of nothing so much as that process vulgarly 
described as " climbing up a ladder to comb 
your hair." In truth Science has never left the 
great world, or cosmos, of Man, nor ever really 
found a locus standi without it ; but during the 
last two or three centuries it has gone in this 
direction^ outwards, continually. Leaving the 
central basis and facts of humanity as too vast and 
unmanageable, and also as apparently variable 
from man to man and therefore affording no 
certain consent to work upon, it has wandered 
gradually outwards, seeking something of more 
definite and universal application Discarding thus 
one by one the interior phases of sensation — as 
the sense of personal relationship, the sense of 
justice, duty, fitness in things or what-not (as too 
uncertain, or perhaps developed to an unequal 
degree in different persons, embryonic in one and 
matured in another), drifting past the more special- 
ised bodily senses, of colour, sound, taste, smell, 
etc., as for similar reasons unavailable — Science 
at last in the primitive consciousness of muscular 
contraction and its abstraction " mass " or ** matter " 
comes to a pause. Here in this last sense, common 
probably to man and the lowest animals, it finds 
its widest, most universal ground — its farthest 
limit from the Centre. It has reached the outer- 
most shell, as it were, of the great Man-cosmos. 


Modern Science : A Criticism 

Even this shell is partially human ; it is not 
entirely osseous, and so far not entirely exact 
and invariable ; but Science can go no farther — 
and there, for the present, it may remain 1 

Some day perhaps, when all this showy vesture 
of scientific theory (which has this peculiarity 
that only the learned can see it) has been quasi- 
completed, and Humanity is expected to walk 
solemnly forth in its new garment for all the 
world to admire — as in Anderssen's story of the 
Emperor's New Clothes — some little child standing 
on a door-step will cry out : " But he has got 
nothing on at all," and amid some confusion it 
will be seen that the child is right. 


" I fear I have very imperfectly succeeded in expressing my 
strong conviction that, before a rigorous logical scrutiny, the Reign 
of Law will prove to be an unverified hypothesis, the Uniformity 
of Nature an ambiguous expression, the certainty of our scientific 
inferences to a great extent a delusion." (Stanley Jevons, Principles 
of Science, p. ix.) 



Once let that [the human ideal] slip out of the thought, and 
science is of no more use than the invocations in the Egyptian 
papiri. — Richard Jefferies. 

IT would appear then, from the preceding 
paper, that in some sense a mistake has 
been made in the method of modern 
scientific work ; not that the vast amount of 
labour expended in it has been altogether wasted, 
for in return for this there is a mass of practical 
results and detailed observations to shov/ ; but 
that in attempting to solve the problem of science 
by the intellect alone, a radical mistake has been 
made which could only land us in absurdity, and 
that this mistake has for the time being also vitiated 
the results that have been attained. For — in 
reference to this last point — the divorce of the 
intellectual from the emotional has caused a great 
portion of our scientific observations to become 
merely pedantic and trifling ; while it has turned 
the practical results — as industrial and military 
machinery, etc. — into engines of evil as often as 
into engines of good. 


Science of the Future : A Forecast 

Science in searching for a permanently valid 
and purely intellectual representation of the uni- 
verse has, as already said, been searching for a 
thing which does not exist. The very facts of 
Nature, as we call them, are at least half feeling. 
If we try to clean the feeling out of a fact and to 
produce a statement v/hich shall be devoid of the 
human or sense element, it simply amounts to 
cleaning the meaning out ; and though our resulting 
statement may be exact it is nugatory and of no 
value. We might as well try to take the clay 
out of a brick. It must never be forgotten that 
the logical processes — important as they are — 
cannot stand by themselves, have no standing 
ground of their own. They presuppose assump- 
tions and are the expression of things that are 
unreasoning, perhaps illogical. The strictest 
logic is a mere hooking together of links in a chain, 
and the last link is of no use — you can put no 
stress on it — unless the first is secured some- 
where. The strength of the intellectual chain is 
no greater than that of the staple from which it 
hangs — and that is a human feeling The strength 
of Euclid is no greater than that of the axioms — 
and they are feelings ; they are unreasoning state- 
ments of which all that we can say is, " I jeel 
like that." In fact all the propositions of Geo- 
metry are nothing but the analysis and elaborate 
expression, so to speak, of these primary convictions 
— and the Geometry-structure stands and falls 
with them. There is no such thing as intellectual 
truth — that is, I mean, a truth which can be stated 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

as existing apart from feeling. If, for instance, 
a proposition in Geometry can be really shown to 
be based on the axioms, it is true, not intellectually 
or absolutely, but as an expression of my primary 
Geometrical sense ; and if my giving a few pence 
to a crossing sweeper is based not on a mere im- 
pression of duty, or an anxiety to appear charitable, 
or wish to escape his importunity, but on genuine 
regard for the man, then it is true, not in any absolute 
signification, but just as an expression of what it 
professes to represent — namely my primary sense 
of humanity. Indeed the truest truth is that 
which is the expression of the deepest feeling, 
and if there is an absolute truth it can only be 
known and expressed by him who has the absolute 
feeling or Being within himself. 

This being so — and the nature of the intellec- 
tual processes being, like the links in a chain, 
transitional — it becomes obvious that the intellec- 
tual results may figure as a 7neans but never as 
an end in themselves. To hang any weight of 
reliance on them in the latter sense is like the 
Chinese Trick — described by Marco Polo — of 
throwing a rope's end up in the air and then 
climbing up the rope. Hence it appears that 
our scientific theories are perfectly legitimate, as 
long as they are formed as a means towards 
■practical applications. In that sense they are 
transitional ; they are formed, not as substantial 
truths, but merely as links in a chain towards some 
definite practical result. For this purpose we may 
form whatever theories are convenient : if we 


Science of the Future : A Forecast 

are calculating the strength of bridges, we may 
adopt what generalisations we like concerning 
mechanical structure, as long as they give us actual 
and practical results ; if we are predicting eclipses, 
we may make use of any theory that will do. The 
theory does not matter, as long as it hauls the prac- 
tical result after it, just as it does not matter whether 
your cable is of iron or hemp or silk, as long as 
you can get your ship into dock with it. In this 
sense our Modern Science is, I conceive, admirable. 
For practical results and brief predictions it affords 
a quantity of useful generalisations — shorthand 
notes and conventional symbols and pocket 
summaries of phenomena — which bear about the 
same relation to the actual world that a map does 
to the country it is supposed to represent. It 
cannot be said to have any resemblance to the real 
thing — but, when you understand the principle 
on which it is formed, it is exceedingly useful for 
finding your way about. As long as Science 
therefore keeps the practical end in view, and 
starting from sense seeks to return to sense again, 
its intermediate theorising is perfectly legitimate ; 
but the moment it credits its theory with a positive 
and authoritative existence, as an actual repre- 
sentation of facts — and endeavours to pass by means 
of it into unverifiable and abstract regions, as of 
invisible germs or atoms, or far distances of space, 
or the remote past or future — it is simply throw- 
ing its rope's end into the sky and trying to climb 
up 1 That " the wish is father to the thought " 
is in its wide sense profoundly true. In the indivi- 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

dual, feeling precedes thinking — as the body 
precedes the clothes. In history, the Rousseau 
precedes the Voltaire. There is, I believe, a 
physiological parallel ; for behind the brain and 
determining its action stands the great sympathetic 
nerve — the organ of the emotions. In fact here 
the brain appears as distinctly transitional. It 
stands between the nerves of sense on the one 
hand and the great sympathetic on the other. 

Change the feeling in an individual, and his whole 
method of thinking will be revolutionised ; change 
the axiom or primary sensation in a science, and 
the whole structure will have to be re-created. 
The current Political Economy is founded on the 
axiom of individual greed ; but let a nev/ axiomatic 
emotion spring up (as of justice or fair play 
instead of unlimited grab), and the base of the 
science will be altered, and will necessitate a new 

So when people argue (on politics, morality, art, 
etc.) it will generally be found that they differ at 
the base ; they go out, perhaps quite unconsciously, 
from different axioms and hence they cannot agree. 
Occasionally of course a strict examination will 
show that, while agreeing at the base, one of them 
has made a false step in deduction ; in that case 
his thought does not represent his primary feeing, 
and when this is pointed out he is forced to alter 
it. But more often it is found that the difference 
lies deep down at a point beyond the reach of 
reason ; and they disagree to the end. In this 
case neither is right and neither is wrong. 


Science of the Future : A Forecast 

They simply feel differently ; they are different 

The Thought then is the expression, the out- 
growth, the covering of underlying Feeling. And 
in the great life of Man as a whole, as in the lesser 
life of the individual, his continual new birth 
and inward growth causes his thought-systems also 
continually to change and be replaced by new ones. 
Like the bud-sheaths and husks in a growing 
plant or tree they give form for a time to the life 
within ; then they fall off and are replaced. The 
husk prepares the bud underneath, which is to 
throw it off. The thought prepares and protects 
the feeling underneath, which growing will in 
evitably reject it ; and when a thought has been 
formed it is already jalse^ i.e.^ ready to fall. 

We are now, then, in a position to come back 
to the question of a genuine Science, truly so- 

As there is no invariable and absolute datum 
on the fringe of Humanity — no definable flying 
atom on which we can found our reasonings — 
and as Modern Science, considered as an actual 
representation of the universe, falls miserably to 
pieces in consequence — is it possible that we have 
made a mistake in the direction in which we have 
sought for our datum ; and may it be that we should 
look for that in the very Centre of Humanity in- 
stead of in its remotest circumference } In that 
direction evidently, if we could penetrate, we 
should expect to find, not a shadowy intellectual 
generalisation, but the very opposite of that — an 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

intense immutable feeling or state, an axiomatic 
condition of Being. Is it possible that here, 
blazing like a sun (if we could only see it — and 
the sun is its allegory in the physical world), 
there exists within us absolutely such a thing 
— the one fact in the universe, of which all else 
are shadows, to which everything has relation, 
and round which, itself unanalysable, all thought 
circles and all phenomena stand as indirect modes 
of expression ? 

Is it possible ? That is the question — the 
question wh'ch each one of us has to solve. At 
any rate, let us throw this out as a suggestion. 
Let us suggest that as we have got nothing satis- 
factory by cleaning the sense-element out of 
phenomena, we should take the opposite course 
and put as much sense into them as we can 1 

" Facts " are, at least, half feelings. Let us 
acknov/ledge this and not empty the feeling out 
of them, but deepen and enlarge that which we 
already have in them. Who knows whether 
we have ever seen the blue sky ? Who knows 
whether we have ever seen each other } Is it 
not a commonplace to say that one man sees in 
the common objects of Nature what another is 
wholly unconscious of? "The primrose on 
the river's brim a yellow primrose is to him — and 
nothing more.' To what extent may the facts 
of Nature thus be deepened and made more 
substantial to us — and whither will this process 
lead us .'' 

Do wc not want to feel more^ not less, in the 

Science of the Future : A Forecast 

presence of phenomena — to enter into a living 
relation with the blue sky, and the incense-laden 
air, and the plants and the animals — nay, even 
with poisonous and hurtful things to have a keener 
sense of their hurtfulness ? Is it not a strange 
kind of science, that which wakes the mind to 
pursue the shadows of things, but dulls the senses 
to the reality of them — which causes a man to 
try to bottle the pure atmosphere of heaven and 
then to shut himself in a gas-reeking, ill-ven- 
tilated laboratory while he analyses it ; or allows 
him to vivisect a dog, unconscious that he is 
blaspheming the pure and holy relation between 
man and the animals in doing so ? Surely the 
man of Science (in its higher sense, that is) should 
be lynx-eyed as an Indian, keen-scented as a 
hound — with all senses and feelings trained by 
constant use and a pure and healthy life in close 
contact with Nature, and with a heart beating in 
sympathy with every creature. Such a man 
would have at command, so to speak, the key- 
board of the universe ; but the mechanical, un- 
healthy, indoor-living student — is he not really 
ignorant of the facts ? — Certainly, since he has not 
felt them, he is. 

The process of the true Science consists first 
in the naming and defining of phenomena (/.^., 
the facts of human consciousness), and secondly, 
in the discovery of the true relation of these 
phenomena to each other ; and since the defini- 
tions of phenomena and their relations keep vary- 
ing with the standpoint of the observer, the process 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

evidently involves all experience, and ultimately 
the discovery of that last fact of experience to 
which and through which all the other facts are 
related. It is therefore an age-long process, and 
has to do with the emotional and moral part of 
man as v/ell as with the logical and intellectual. 
It is, in fact,' the discovery of the nature of Man 
himself, and of the true order of his being. 

Modern Science — though seeking for a unity 
in Nature — fails to find it, because, from the 
nature of the case, any large body of knowledge 
in which all people will agree is limited to certain 
small regions of human experience — regions in 
which very likely no unity is discoverable. It 
takes the emerald, and breaks it up ; treats of its 
colour and light-refracting qualities on the one 
hand ; of its crystalline structure and hardness 
on the other ; of its weight and density ; and of 
its chemical properties ; all separately, and pro- 
ducing long strings of generalisation from each 
aspect of the subject. But how all these qualities 
are conjoined together, what their relation is 
which constitutes the emerald — yea, even the 
smallest bit of emerald dust — it (wisely) does not 
attempt to say. It takes the man and dissects 
him ; treats of his blood, his nerves, his bones, 
his brain ; of his senses of sight, of touch, of 
hearing ; but of that which binds these together 
into a unity, of their true relation to each other 
in the man, it is silent. 

Yet the man knows of himself that he is a unity ; 
he knows that all parts of his body have relation 


Science of the Future : A Forecast 

to hirn^ and to each other ; he knows that his 
senses of sight and hearing and touch and taste 
and smell are conjoined in the focus of his indivi- 
dual life, in his " I am ; " he knows that all his 
faculties and powers, however much they may- 
belong to different planes, spiritual or material, 
or may come under the inquisition of different 
Sciences, have an order of their own among each 
other — that there is an ultimate Science of them 
— even though he be not yet wholly versed in 
it. And he knows, moreover, that in a grain of 
dust, or in an emerald, or in an orange, or in any 
object of Nature, the different attributes of the 
object — which the Sciences thus treat of separ- 
ately — are only the reflexion of his different senses ; 
so that the problem of the conjunction of different 
attributes in a body comes back to the same pro- 
blem of the union of various senses and powers 
in himself — each individual object being only 
a case, externalised as it were, and made a matter 
of consciousness, of the general relation to each 
other of his own sensations and feelings. Know- 
ing all his — I say — he sees that the understanding 
of Nature in general and of the laws or relations 
which he thinks he perceives among external 
things must always depend on the relations and 
laws which he tacitly assumes, or which he is 
directly conscious of, as existing between the 
various parts of his own being ; and that the 
ultimate truth which Science — the divine Science — 
is really in search of is a moral or psychologic Truth 
— an understanding of what man is, and the discovery 

129 I 

Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

of the true relation to each other of all his 
faculties — involving all experience, and an exer- 
cise of every faculty physical, intellectual, emo- 
tional and spiritual, instead of one set of faculties 

Not till we know the law of ourselves, in fact, 
shall we know the law of the emerald and the 
orange, or of Nature generally ; and the law of 
ourselves is not learnt, except subordinately, 
by intellectual investigation ; it is mainly learnt 
by life. The relation of gravity to vitality is 
learnt not so much by outer experiment in a 
laboratory as by long experience within ourselves 
from the day when as infants we cannot lift our- 
selves above the floor, through the years of the 
proud strength of manhood scaling the loftiest 
mountains, to the hour when our disengaged spirits 
finally overcome and pass beyond the attraction 
of the earth ; and just as the sense of weight — 
which first appears as a quite external sensation 
— is thus at last found to stand in most pregnant 
relation with our deepest selves, so of the other 
senses which feed the individual life — the senses 
of light, of warmth, of taste, of sound, of smell. 
Taste, which begins as it were on the tip of the 
tongue, becomes ultimately, if normally developed, 
a sense which identifies itself with the health 
and well-being of the whole body ; the pleasure 
of taste becomes vastly more than a mere surface 
pleasure, and its discrimination of food more than 
a mere regard for the nutrition of the ordinary 
corporeal functions. The sense of Light, which 


Science of the Future : A Forecast 

begins in the material eye, grows and deepens 
inwardly till the consciousness of it pervades 
the whole body and mind with a kind of inward 
illumination or divine Reason, showing the 
places of all things and enfolding the sense 
of beauty in itself. The sense of Warmth in 
the same mannre is related to and leads up to 
Love ; and Sound, in the voices of our friends or 
the divine chords of music, has passed away from 
being an external phenomenon and has established 
itself as the language of our most tender and inti- 
mate emotions. 

All the senses thus, as they develop and deepen, 
are found to unite in the very focus of individual 
life. Slowly, and through long experience, their 
relation to each other, their very meaning unfolds, 
or will unfold ; and as this process takes place 
the man knows himself one^ a unity, of which the 
various faculties are the different manifestations. 
Then further through his less localised feelings 
or more glorified senses the individual finds his 
relation to other individuals. Through his loves 
and hatreds, through his senses of attraction, 
repulsion, cohesion, solidarity, order, justice, 
charity, right, wrong and the rest — these feelings, 
each like the others deepening back more and 
more as time goes on — he gradually discovers 
his true and abiding relationship to other indi- 
viduals, and to the divine society of which they 
all form a part — and so at last, if we may venture to 
say so, his relationship to the absolute and uni- 
versal. At present, since our most important 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

relation to each other Is conceived of as one of 
rivalry and Competition, we of course think of 
the objects of Nature as being chiefly engaged 
in a Struggle for Existence with each other ; but 
when we become aware of all our senses and feelings, 
and of ourselves as individuals, as having relation 
to the Absolute and universal, proceeding from 
it, as the branches and twigs of a tree from the 
trunk — then we shall become aware of a Divine 
or absolute science in Nature ; we shall at last 
understand that all objects have a permanent 
and indissoluble relation to each other, and 
shall see their true meaning — though not till 

Is it possible then that Science, having hitherto 
— and we shall see in time that this process has 
been really most valuable and important — gone 
outwards from the centre towards the very fringe 
of Humanity — emptying facts as far as possible 
as it went of all feeling, and reducing itself at 
last to the most shadowy generalisations on the 
very verge of sense and nonsense — is it possible, 
I say, that it will now return, and first filling up 
facts with feeling as far as practicable (that is, 
by direct and the most living contact with Nature 
in every form, learning to enter into direct per- 
sonal sense-relationship with every phenomenon 
and phase), will so gradually ascend to the great 
central fact and feeling, and then at last and for 
the first time become fully conscious of a vast 
organisation — absolutely perfect and intimately knit 
from its centre to its utmost circumference — 


Science of the Future : A Forecast 

(the true cosmos of Man — the conceptions of 
man and god combined) — existing inchoate or 
embryonic in every individual man, animal, plant, 
or other creature — the object of all life, experience, 
suffering, and toil — the ground of all sensation, 
and the hidden, yet proper, theme of all thought 
and study ? 

For this is it possible that Science will, speaking 
broadly, have to leave the laboratory and become 
one with Life ; or that the great currents of human 
life will have to be turned on into these often 
Augean stables of intellectual pruriency ? — the 
investigation of Nature no longer a matter of the 
intellect alone, but of patient listening and the 
quiet eye, and of love and faith, and of all deep 
human experience, bearing not superciliously its 
weight towards the interpretation of the least 
phenomenon — every " fact " thus deepened to 
its utmost — all experience (rather than experi- 
ment) courted, and filial walking with Nature, 
rather than tearing of veils aside — the life of the 
open air, and on the land and the waters, the 
companionship of the animals and the trees and 
the stars, the knowledge of their habits at first 
hand and through individual relationship to them, 
the recognition of their voices and languages, and 
listening well what they themselves have to say ; 
the keenest education of the senses towards the 
physical powers and elements, and the acceptance 
of all human experience, without exception — 
till Science become a reality. 

Is it possible that in some sense, instead of 

Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

reducing each branch of Science to its lowest 
terms, we shall have to read it in the light of its 
highest factors, and " take it up " into the Science 
above — that we shall have to take up the mechani- 
cal sciences into the physical, the physical into 
the vital, the vital into the social and ethical, and 
so forth, before we can understand them ? Is 
it possible that the phenomena of Chemistry 
only find their due place and importance in their 
relation to living beings and processes ; that the 
phenomena of vitality and the laws of Biology 
and Zoology — Evolution included — can only be 
" explained " by their dependence on self-hood — 
both in plants and animals ; that Political Economy 
and the Social Sciences (which deal v/ith men as 
individual selves) must, to be undertstood aright, 
be studied in the light of those great ethical principles 
and enthusiasms, which to a certain extent over- 
ride the individual self ; and that, finally. Ethics 
or the study of moral problems is only compre- 
hensible when the student has become aware of a 
region beyond Ethics, into which questions of 
morality and immorality, of right and wrong, 
do not and cannot enter ? 

Of this reversal of the ordinary scientific method 
Ruskin has given a great and signal instance in 
his treatment of Political Economy ; it remains, 
perhaps, for others to follow his example in the 
other branches of Science. ^^ 

' Thus the study of Geometry would be primarily an education 
of the eye, and the mind's eye, to the perception of geometrical 
forms and facts, the judgment of angles, etc. — and secondarily 

Science of the Future : A Forecast 

With regard to the absolute datum question 
we have seen that Science has two alternatives 
before it — either to be merely intellectual and to 
seek for its start-point in some quite external 
(and imaginary) thing like the Atom, or to be 
divine and to seek for its absolute in the innermost 
recesses of humanity. We have two similar 
alternatives in the doctrine of Evolution, which 
looks either to one end of the scale or the other 
for its interpretation — either to the amoeba or to 
the man — to something it knows next to nothing 
of, or to that which it knows most of. Goethe, 
when gazing at a fan-palm at Padua, conceived 
the idea of leaf-metamorphosis, which he after- 
wards enunciated in the now accepted doctrine 
that all parts of a plant — seed-vessel, pistil, stamens, 
petals, sepals, stalk, etc. — may be regarded as 
modifications of a leaf or leaves. In this view 
the distinctions between the parts arc effaced, and 
we have only one part instead of many — but the 
question is *' what is that part ? " It is of course 
arbitrary to call it a leaf, for since it is continually 
varying it is at one time a leaf, and at another a 
stalk, and then a petal or a sepal, and so forth. 

only a process of deductive reasoning — a body of empirical know- 
ledge strengthened and tied together by bands of logic ; the study 
of Natural History would be primarily an affectionate intimacy 
with the habits of animals and plants, and classification would be 
treated as a secondary matter and as a help to the former ; Physiology 
would be studied in the first place by the method of Health — 
the pure body — becoming gradually transparent with all its organs 
to the eye of the mind — and dissection would be used to corroborate 
and correct the results thus attained ; and so on. 

Civilisation : Its Cause aud Cure 

What then is it ? For the moment we are 

So with the doctrine of Evolution as applied 
to the whole organic kingdom up to man. Like 
the doctrine of leaf-metamorphosis it obliterates 
distinctions. Geoffroy St. Hilaire proposed to 
show the French Academy that a Cephalopod 
could be assimilated to a Vertebrate by supposing 
the latter bent backwards and walking on its 
hands and feet. There is a continuous variation 
from the mollusc to the man — all the lines of 
distinction run and waver — classes and species 
cease to exist — and Science, instead of many, sees 
only one thing. What then is that one thing ? 
Is it a mollusc, or is it a man, or what is it } Are 
we to say that man may be looked upon as a varia- 
tion of a mollusc or an amoeba, or that the amoeba 
may be looked on as a variation of man } Here 
are two directions of thought ; which shall we 
choose } But the plain truth is, the Intellect can 
give no satisfactory answer. Whichever, or 
whatever, it chooses, the choice is quite arbitrary 
— just as much so as the choice of the "leaf" 
in the other case. There is no answer to be given. 
And thus it is that the appearance of the doctrine 
oj Evolution is the signal of the destruction of Science 
(in the ordinary acceptation of the word). For 
Evolution is the successive obliteration of the 
arbitrary distinctions and landmarks which by 
their existence constitute Science, and as soon 
as Evolution covers the whole ground of Nature 
inorganic and organic (as before long it will do) 


Science of the Future : A Forecast 

— the whole of Nature runs and wavers before 
the eye of Science, the latter recognises that its 
distinctions are arbitrary, and turns upon and 
destroys itself. This has happened before, I 
believe — ages back in the history of the human 
race — and probably will happen again. 

The only conceivable answer to the question, 
" What is that which is now a mollusc and now a 
man and now an inorganic atom ^ " ^ is given 
by man himself — and his answer is, I fear, not 
•' scientific." It is " I Am." " I am that which 
varies." And the force of his answer depends 
on what he means by the word " I." And so 
also the only conceivable answer to the absolute 
datum question is to be found in the meaning 
of the word " I " — in the deepening back of 
consciousness itself. Man is the measure of all 
things. If we are to use Science as a minister 
to the most external part of man — to provide 
him with cheap boots and shoes, etc. — then we 
do right to seek our absolute datum in his external 
part, and to take his foot as our first measure. We 
found a science on feet and pounds, and it serves 
its purpose well enough. But if we want to 
find a garment for his inner being — or, rather, 
one that shall fit the whole man — to wear which 
will be a delight to him and, as it were, a very inter- 
pretation of himself — it seems obvious that we 
must not take our measure from outside, but 
from his very most central principle. The whole 

I Compare the Sphinx-riddle : What is that which goes on 
four legs, etc. 

Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

question is, whether there is any absolute datum 
in this direction or not. There have been men 
through all ages of history (and from before) 
who have declared that there is. They have 
perhaps been conscious of it in themselves. On 
the other hand there have been men who, starting 
from their feet, declared that consciousness itself 
was a mere incident of the human machine — 
as the whistle of the engine — and thus the matter 
stands. On the whole, at the present day, the 
feet have it, and (notwithstanding their variety 
in size and boot-induced conformation) are 
generally accepted as the best absolute datum 

Under the foot regime the universe is generally 
conceived of as a medley of objects and forces, 
more or less orderly and distinct from man, in 
the midst of which man is placed — the purpose 
and tendency of his life being ** adaptation to his 
environment." To understand this we may im- 
agine Mrs. Brown in the middle of Oxford Street. 
'Buses and cabs are running in different directions, 
carts and drays are rattling on all sides of her. 
This is her environment, and she has to adapt 
herself to it. She has to learn the laws of the 
vehicles and their movements, to stand on this 
side or on that, to run here and stop there, con- 
ceivably to jump into one at a favourable moment, 
to make use of the law of its movement, and so get 
carried to her destination as comfortably as may 
be. A long course of this sort of thing " adapts " 
Mrs. Brown considerably, and she becomes more 


Science of the Future : A Forecast 

active, both in mind and body, than before. That 
is all very well. But Mrs. Brown has a destina- 
tion. (Indeed how would she ever have got into 
the middle of Oxford Street at all, if she had not 
had one } and if she did get there with no des- 
tination at all, but merely to skip about, would 
there be any Mrs. Brown left in a short time T) 
The question is, " What is the destination of 
Man } " 

About this last question unfortunately we hear 
little. The theory is (I hope I am not doing it 
injustice) that by studying your environment 
sufficiently you will find out — that is, that by 
investigating Astronomy, Biology, Physics, Ethics, 
etc., you will discover the destiny of man. But 
this seems to me the same as saying that by studying 
the laws of cabs and 'buses sufficiently you will find 
out where you are going to. These are ways 
and means. Study them by all means, that is 
right enough ; but do not think they will tell you 
where to go. You have to use them, not they 

In order therefore for the environment to act, 
there must be a destination. This I suppose is 
expressed in the biological dictum, " organism 
is made by function as well as environment." 
What then is the function of Man } And here 
we come back again to the meaning of the word 

Nothwithstanding then the prevalence of the 
foot regime, and that the heathen so furiously rage 
together in their belief in it, let us suggest that 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

there is in man a divine consciousness as well as 
a foot-consciousness. For, as we saw that the 
sense of taste may pass from being a mere local 
thing on the tip of the tongue to pervading and 
becoming synonymous with the health of the whole 
body ; or as the blue of the sky may be to one 
person a mere superficial impression of colour, 
and to another the inspiration of a poem or picture, 
and to a third — as to the " god-intoxicated " 
Arab of the desert — a living presence like the an- 
cient Dyaus or Zeus ; so may not the whole of 
human consciousness gradually lift itself from a 
mere local and temporary consciousness to a divine 
and universal ? There is in every man a local 
consciousness connected with his quite external 
body ; that we know. Are there not also in 
every man the makings of a universal conscious- 
ness ? That there are in us phases of con- 
sciousness which transcend the limit of the bodily 
senses, is a matter of daily experience ; that 
we perceive and know things which are not 
conveyed to us by our bodily eyes or heard by 
our bodily ears, is certain ; that there rise in us 
waves of consciousness from those around us, 
from the people, the race, to which we belong, 
is also certain ; may there not then be in us the 
makings of a perception and knowledge which 
shall not be relative to this body which is here and 
now, but which shall be good for all time and every- 
where ? Does there not exist, in truth, as we 
have already hinted — an inner Illumination — of 
which what we call light in the outer world is the 


Science of the Future : A Forecast 

partial expression and manifestation — by which 
we can ultimately see things, as they are^ beholding 
all creation, the animals, the angels, the plants, 
the figures of our friends and all the ranks and 
races of human kind, in their true being and order 
— not by any local act of perception but by a cosmical 
intuition and presence, identifying ourselves with 
what we see ? Does there not exist a perfected 
sense of Hearing — as of the morning-stars singing 
together — an understanding of the words that are 
spoken all through the universe, the hidden meaning 
of all things, the word which is creation itself — 
a profound and far pervading sense, of which our 
ordinary sense of sound is only the first novitiate 
and initiation ? Do we not become aware of an 
inner sense of Health and of Holiness — the transla- 
tion and final outcome of the external sense of 
taste — which has power to determine for us abso- 
lutely and without any ado, without argument 
and without denial, what is good and appropriate 
to be done or suffered in every case that can 
arise ? 

And so on ; it is not necessary to say more. 
If there are such powers in man, then there is 
indeed an exact science possible. Short of it 
there is only a temporary and phantom science. 
*' Whatever is known to us by (direct) con- 
sciousness," says Stuart Mill in his System of 
Logic, " is known to us beyond possibility of 
question ; " what is known by our local and 
temporary consciousness is known for the moment 
beyond possibility of question ; what is known 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

by our permanent and universal consciousness 
is permanently known beyond possibility of 
question. I 

' See for continuation of this subject the chapter on " A Rational 
and Humane Science," p. 219 injra. 



The State is the actually existing realised moral life. For it 
is the unity of the universal essential Will with that of the individual, 
and this is " Morality." — Hegel. 

A CRIMINAL is literally a person accused 
— accused, and in the modern sense of 
the word convicted, of being harmful 
to Society. But is he there in the dock, the patch- 
coated brawler or burglar, really harmful to Society ? 
is he more harmful than the mild old gentleman 
in the wig who pronounces sentence upon him .'' 
That is the question. Certainly he has infringed 
the law : and the law is in a sense the consolidated 
public opinion of Society : but if no one were to 
break the law, public opinion would ossify, and 
Society would die. As a matter of fact Society 
keeps changing its opinion. How then are we 
to know when it is right and when it is wrong ? 
The Outcast of one age is the Hero of another. 
In execration they nailed Roger Bacon's manu- 
scripts out in the sun and rain, to rot crucified 
upon planks — his bones lie in an unknown and 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

unhonoured grave — yet to-day he is regarded as 
a pioneer of human thought. The hated Chris- 
tian holding his ill-famed love-feasts in the darkness 
of the catacombs has climbed up to the throne 
of S. Peter and the world. The Jew money- 
lender whom Front-de-Bceuf could torture with 
impunity is become a Rothschild — guest of 
princes and instigator of commercial wars ; and 
Shylock is now a highly respectable Railway 
Bondholder. And the Accepted of one age is 
the Criminal of the next. All the glories of Alex- 
ander do not condone in our eyes for his cruelty 
in crucifying the brave defenders of Tyre by 
thousands along the sea-shore ; and if Solomon 
with his thousand wives and concubines were 
to appear in London to-morrow, even our most 
frivolous circles would be shocked, and Brigham 
Young by contrast seem a domestic model. The 
judge pronounces sentence on the prisoner now, 
but Society in its turn and in the lapse of years 
pronounces sentence on the judge. It holds 
in its hand a new canon, a new code of morals, 
and consigns its former representative and the 
law which he administered to a limbo of con- 

It seems as if Society, as it progresses from point 
to point, forms ideals — just as the individual does. 
At any moment each person, consciously or un- 
consciously, has an ideal in his mind toward which 
he is working (hence the importance of literature). 
Similarly Society has an ideal in its mind. These 
ideals are tangents or vanishing points of the direc- 


Defence of Criminals 

tion in which Society is moving at the time. It 
does not reach its ideal, but it goes in that direc- 
tion — then, after a time, the direction of its move- 
ment changes, and it has a new ideal. 

When the ideal of Society is material gain or 
possession, as it is largely to-day, the object of its 
special condemnation is the thief — not the rich 
thief, for he is already in possession and therefore 
respectable, but the poor thief. There is nothing 
to show that the poor thief is really more immoral 
or unsocial than the respectable money-grubber ; 
but it is very clear that the money-grubber has 
been floating with the great current of Society, 
while the poor man has been swimming against 
it, and so has been worsted. Or when, as to-day. 
Society rests on private property in land, its counter- 
ideal is the poacher. If you go in the company of 
the county squire-archy and listen to the after- 
dinner talk you will soon think the poacher a 
combination of all human and diabolic vices ; 
yet I have known a good many poachers, and 
either have been very lucky in my specimens or 
singularly prejudiced in their favour, for I have 
generally found them very good fellows — but 
with just this one blemish that they invariably 
regard a landlord as an emissary of the evil one ! 
The poacher is as much in the right, probably, 
as the landlord, but he is not right for the time. 
He is asserting a right (and an instinct) belonging 
to a past time — when for hunting purposes all 
land was held in common — or to aUime in the 
future when such or similar rights shall be restored. 

145 K 

Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

Caesar says of the Suevi that they tilled the ground 
in common and had no private lands, and there is 
abundant evidence that all early human communi- 
ties, before they entered on the stage of modern 
civilisation, were communistic in character Some 
of the Pacific Islanders to-day are in the same 
condition. In those times private property was 
theft. Obviously the man who attempted to 
retain for himself land or goods, or who fenced 
off a portion of the common ground and — like 
the modern landlord — would allow no one to till 
it who did not pay him a tax — was a criminal of 
the deepest dye. Nevertheless the criminals 
pushed their way to the front, and have become 
the respectables of modern Society. And it is 
quite probable that in like manner the criminals 
of to-day will push to the front and become the 
respectables of a later age. 

The ascetic and monastic ideal of early Christian 
and mediaeval ages is now regarded as foolish, 
if not wicked ; and poverty, which in many times 
and places has been held in honour as the only 
garb of honesty, is condemned as criminal and 
indecent. Nomadism — if accompanied by poverty 
— is criminal in modern Society. To-day the 
gipsy and the tramp are hunted down. To have 
no settled habitation, or worse still, no place to 
lay your head, are suspicious matters. We close 
even our outhouses and barns against the son of 
man, and so to us the son of man comes not. 
And yet — at one time and in one stage of human 
progress — the nomadic state is the rule ; and the 


Defence of Criminals 

settler is then the criminal. His crops are fired 
and his cattle driven off. What right has he 
to lay a limit to the hunting grounds, or to spoil 
the wild free life of the plains with his dirty agri- 
culture ? 

As to the marriage relation and its attendant 
moralities, the forms are numerous and notorious 
enough. Public opinion seems to have varied 
through all phases and ideals, and yet there is no 
indication of finality. Modern investigations 
show that in primitive human societies the affinities 
admitted or barred in marriage are most various 
— the relation of brother and sister being even 
in cases allowed ; in the present day such a bond 
as the last-mentioned v/ould be considered inhuman 
and monstrous. I Polyandry prevails among one 
people or at one time, polygyny prevails among 
another people or at another time. In Central 
Africa to-day the chief offers you his wife as a 
mark of hospitality, in India the native Prince 
keeps her hidden even from his most intimate 
guest. Among the Japanese, public opinion holds 
young women — even of good birth — singularly 
free in their intercourse with men, //// fhey are 
mart led ; at Paris they are free after. In the 
Greek and Roman antiquity marriage seems, with 

I Yet there is no doubt that lasting and passionate love may 
exist between two persons thus nearly related. The danger to 
the health of the offspring from occasional in-breeding of the 
kind appears to arise chiefly from the accentuation of infirmities 
common to the two parents. In a state of society free from the 
diseases of the civilisation-period, such a danger would be greatly 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

some brilliant exceptions, to have been a prosaic 
affair — mostly a matter of convenience and house- 
keeping — the woman an underling — little of 
the ideal attaching to the relationship of man and 
wife. The romance of love went elsewhere. 
The better class of free women or Hetairai were 
those who gave a spiritual charm to the passion. 
They were an educated and recognised body, 
and possibly in their best times exercised a healthy 
and discriminating influence upon the male youth. 
The respectful treatment of Theodota by Socrates 
and the advice which he gives her concerning her 
lovers : to keep the insolent from her door, and 
to rejoice greatly when the accepted succeed 
in anything honourable, indicates this. That 
their influence was at times immense the mere 
name of Aspasia is sufficient to show ; and if 
Plato in the Symposium reports correctly the word 
of Diotima, her teaching on the subject of human 
and divine love was probably of the noblest and 
profoundest that has ever been given to the 

With the influx of the North-men over Europe 
came a new ideal of the sexual relation, and the 
wife mounted more into equality with her husband 
than before. The romance of love, however, still 
went mainly outside marriage, and may, I believe, 
be traced in two chief forms — that of Chivalry, 
as an ideal devotion to simple Womanhood ; and 
that of Minstrelsy, which took quite a different 
hue, individual and sentimental — the lover and 
his mistress (she in most cases the wife of another),. 


Defence of Criminals 

the serenade, secret amour, etc. — both of which 
forms of Chivalry and Minstrelsy contain in 
themselves something new and not quite familiar 
to antiquity. 

Finally in modern times the monogamic union 
has risen to pre-eminence — the splendid ideal of 
an equal and life-long attachment between man 
and wife, fruitful of children in this life, and 
hopeful of continuance beyond — and has become 
the great theme of romantic literature, and the 
climax of a thousand novels and poems. Yet 
it is just here and to-day, when this ideal after 
centuries of struggle has established itself, and 
among the nations that are in the van of civilisa- 
tion — that we find the doctrine of perfect liberty 
in the marriage relationship being most success- 
fully preached, and that the communalisation of 
social life in the future seems likely to weaken 
the family bond and to relax the obligation of 
the marriage tie. 

If the Greek age, splendid rs it was in itself 
and in its fruits of human progress, did not hold 
marriage very high, it was partly because the ideal 
passion of that period, and one which more than 
all else inspired it, was that of comradeship, or 
male friendship carried over into the region of 
love. The two figures of Harmodius and Aristo- 
giton stand at the entrance of Greek history as 
the type of this passion, bearing its fruit (as Plato 
throughout maintains is its nature) in united self- 
devotion to the country's good The heroic 
Theban legion, the *' sacred band," into which 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

no 'man might enter without his lover — and which 
was said to have remained unvanquished till 
it was annihilated at the battle of Chseronaea — 
proves to us hov/ publicly this passion and its place 
in society were recognised ; while its universality 
and the depth to which it had stirred the Greek 
mind are indicated by the fact that whole treatises 
on love, in its spiritual aspect, exist, in which no 
other form of the sentiment seems to be contem- 
plated ; and by the magnificent panorama of 
Greek statuary, which was obviously to a large 
extent inspired by it. In fact the most remarkable 
Society known to history, and its greatest men, 
cannot be properly considered or understood 
apart from this passion ; yet the modern world 
scarcely recognises it, or if it recognises, does so 
chiefly to condemn it. ^ 

Other instances might be quoted to show how 
differently moral questions are regarded in one 
age and another — as in the cases of Usury, Magic, 
Suicide, Infanticide, etc. On the v/holc we pride 
ourselves (and justly I believe) on the general 
advance in humanity ; yet we know that to-day 
the merest savages can only shudder at a civilisa- 
tion whose public opinion allows — as among us 
— the rich to wallow in their wealth, while the 

* Modern writers fixing their regard on the physical side of 
this love (necessary no doubt here, as elsewhere, to define and 
corroborate the spiritual) have entered their protest as against 
the mere obscenity into which the thing fell — for instance in the 
days of Martial — but have missed the profound significance of 
the heroic attachment itself. It is, however, with the ideals 
that we are just now concerned and not with their disintegration. 


Defence of Criminals 

poor are systematically starving ; and it is certain 
that the vivisection of animals — which on the 
whole is approved by our educated classes (though 
not by the healthier sentiment of the uneducated) 
— would have been stigmatised as one of the 
most abominable crimes by the ancient' Egyptians '^ 
— if, that is, they could have conceived such a 
practice possible at all. 

But not only do the moral judgments of man- 
kind thus vary from age to age and from race 
to race, but — v/hat is equally remarkable — they 
vary to an extraordinary degree from class to class 
of the same society. If the landlord class regards 
the poacher as a criminal, the poacher, as already 
hinted, looks upon the landlord as a selfish ruffian 
who has the police on his side ; if the respectable 
shareholder, politely and respectably subsisting 
on dividends, dismisses navvies and the frequenters 
of public-houses as disorderly persons, the navvy 
in return despises the shareholder as a sneaking 
thief. And it is not easy to see, after all, which is 
in the right. It is useless to dismiss these dis- 
crepancies by supposing that one class in the nation 
possesses a monopoly of morality and that the other 
classes simply rail at the virtue they cannot attain 
to, for this is obviously not the case. It is almost 
a commonplace, and certainly a fact that cannot 
be contested, that every class — however sinful 
or outcast in the eyes of others — contains within 
its ranks a large proportion of generous, noble, 

I In the /aier Egyptian centuries vivisection apparently became 
an approved practice. 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

self-sacrificing characters ; so that the pubHc 
opinion of one such class, however different from 
that of others, cannot at least be invalidated on 
the above ground. There are plenty of clergy- 
men at this moment who are models of pastors — 
true shepherds of the people — though a large 
and increasing section of society persist in regarding 
priests as a kind of wolves in sheep's clothing. 
It is not uncommon to meet with professional 
thieves who are generous and open-handed to 
the last degree, and ready to part with their last 
penny to help a comrade in distress ; with women 
living outside the bounds of conventional morality 
who are strongly religious in sentiment, and 
who regard atheists as really wicked people ; with 
aristocrats who have as stern material in them as 
quarry-men ; and even with bondholders and 
drawing-room loungers who are as capable of 
bravery and self-sacrifice as many a pitman or 
ironworker. Yet all these classes mentioned have 
their codes of morality, differing in greater or 
lesser degree from each other ; and again the 
question forces itself upon us : Which of them 
all is the true and abiding code ? 

It may be said, with regard to this variation of 
codes within the same society, that, though various 
codes may exist at the same time, one only is 
really valid, namely, that which has embodied 
itself in the law — that the others have been rejected 
because they were unworthy. But, when we 
come to look into this matter of law, we see that 
the plea can hardly be maintained. Law re- 


Defence of Criminals 

presents from age to age the code of the dominant 
or ruHng class, slowly accumulated, no doubt, 
and slowly modified, but always added to and 
always administered by the ruling class. To-day 
the code of the dominant class may perhaps best 
be denoted by the word Respectability — and 
if we ask why this code has to a great extent over- 
whelmed the codes of the other classes and got 
the law on its side (so far that in the main it char- 
acterises those classes who do not conform to it 
as the criminal classes), the answer can only be : 
Because it is the code of the classes who are in 
power. Respectability is the code of those who 
have the wealth and the command, and as these 
have also the fluent pens and tongues, it is the 
standard of modern literature and the press. It 
is not necessarily a better standard than others, 
but it is the one that happens to be in the ascendant ; 
it is the code of the classes that chiefly represent 
modern society ; it is the code of the Bourgeoisie. 
It is difl:erent from the Feudal code of the past, 
of the knightly classes, and of Chivalry ; it is 
different from the Democratic code of the future — 
of brotherhood and of equality ; it is the code 
of the Commercial age — and its distinctive watch- 
word is property. 

The respectability of to-day is the respectability 
of property. There is nothing so respectable 
as being well-off. The Law confirms this : 
everything is on the side of the rich ; justice is 
too expensive a thing for the poor man. Offences 
against the person hardly count for so much as 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

those against property. You may beat your 
wife within an inch of her Hfe and only get three 
months ; but if you steal a rabbit, you may be 
" sent " for years. So again, gambling by thou- 
sands on Change is respectable enough, but pitch 
and toss for half-pence in the streets is low, and 
must be dealt with by the police ; while it is a 
mere commonplace to say that the high-class 
swindler is " received " in society from which 
a more honest but patch-coated brother would 
infallibly be rejected. As Walt Whitman has it, 
" There is plenty of glamour about the most 
damnable crimes and hoggish meannesses, special 
and general, of the feudal and dynastic world 
over there, with its personnel of lords and queens 
and courts, so well-dressed and handsome. But 
the people are ungrammatical, untidy, and their 
sins gaunt and ill-bred." 

Thus we see that though there are, for instance 
in the England of to-day, a variety of classes and 
a variety of corresponding codes of public opinion 
and morality, one of these codes, namely that of 
the ruling class whose watchword is property, 
is strongly in the ascendant. And we may fairly 
suppose that in any nation from the time when 
it first becomes divided into well-marked classes 
this is or has been the case. In one age — the 
commercial age — the code of the commercial or 
money-loving class is dominant ; in another — 
the military — the code of the warrior class is 
dominant ; in another — the religious — the code 
of the priestly class ; and so on. And even 


Defence of Criminals 

before any question of division into classes arises, 
while races are yet in a rudimentary and tribal 
state, the utmost diversity of custom and public 
opinion marks the one from the other. 

What, then, are v^^e to conclude from all these 
variations (and the far greater number which 
I have not mentioned) of the respect or stigma 
attaching to the same actions, not only among 
different societies in different ages or parts of the 
world, but even at any one time among different 
classes of the same society ? Must we conclude 
that there is no such thing as a permanent moral 
code valid for all time ; or must we still suppose 
that there is such a thing — though society has 
hitherto sought for it in vain ? 

I think it is obvious that there is no such thing 
as a permanent moral code — at any rate as apply- 
ing to actions. Probably the respect or stigma 
attaching to particular classes of actions arose 
from the fact that these classes of actions v/ere 
— or v>^ere thought to be — beneficial or injurious 
to the society of the time ; but it is also clear that 
this good or bad name once created clings to the 
action long after the action has ceased in the 
course of social progress to be beneficial in the 
one case, or injurious in the other ; and indeed 
long after the thinkers of the race have discovered 
the discrepancy. And so in a short time arises 
a great confusion in the popular mind between 
what is really good or evil for the race and what 
is reputed to be so — the bolder spirits who try 
to separate the two having to atone for this con- 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

fusion by their own martyrdom. It is also pretty 
clear that the actions which are beneficial or injuri- 
ous to the race must by the nature of the case vary 
almost indefinitely with the changing conditions 
of the life of the race — what is beneficial in one 
age or under one set of conditions being injurious 
in another age or under other circumstances — so 
that a permanent or ever-valid code of moral 
action is not a thing to be expected, at any rate 
by those who regard morality as a result of social 
experience, and as a matter of fact is not a thing 
that we find existing. And, indeed, of those who 
regard morals as intuitive, there are few who have 
thought about the matter who would be inclined 
to say that any act in itself can be either right or 
wrong. Though there is a superficial judgment 
of this kind, yet when the matter comes to be 
looked into, the more general consent seems to 
be that the rightness or wrongness is in the motive. 
To kill (it is said) is not wrong, but to do so with 
murderous intent is ; to take money out of another 
person's purse is in itself neither moral nor immoral 
— all depends upon whether permission has been 
given, or on what the relations between the two 
persons are ; and so on. Obviously there is no 
mere act which under given conditions may not 
be justified, and equally obvious there is no 
mere act which under given conditions may not 
become unjustifiable. To talk, therefore, about 
virtues and vices as permanent and distinct classes 
of actions is illusory : there is no such distinction, 
except so far as a superficial and transient public 


Defence of Criminals 

opinion creates it. The theatre of morality is 
in the passions, and there are (it is said) virtuous 
and vicious passions — eternally distinct from each 

Here, then, we have abandoned the search for 
a permanent moral code among the actions ; on 
the understanding that we are more likely to find 
such a thing among the passions. And I think 
it would be generally admitted that this is a move 
in the right direction. There are difficulties 
however here, and the matter is not one v/hich 
renders itself up at once. Though, vaguely 
speaking, some passions seem nobler and more 
dignified than others, we find it very difficult, 
in fact impossible, to draw any strict line which 
shall separate one class, the virtuous, from the 
other class, the vicious. On the whole we place 
Prudence, Generosity, Chastity, Reverence, Courage 
among the virtues — and their opposites, as 
Rashness, Miserliness, Incontinence, Arrogance, 
Timidity, among the vices ; yet we do not seem 
able to say that Prudence is always better than 
Rashness, Chastity than Incontinence, or Reverence 
than Arrogance. There are situations in which 
the less honoured quality is the most in place ; 
and if the extreme of this is undesirable, the extreme 
of its opposite is undesirable too. Courage, it 
is commonly said, must not be carried over into 
foolhardiness ; Chastity must not go so far as the 
monks of the early Church took it ; there is a limit 
to the indulgence of the instinct of Reverence. In 
fact the less dignified passions are necessary some- 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

times as a counterbalance and set-off to the more 
dignified, and a character devoid of them would 
be very insipid ; just as among the members of 
the body, the less honoured have their place as 
well as the more honoured, and could not well 
be discarded. 

Hence a number of writers, abandoning the 
attempt to draw a fixed line between virtuous 
and vicious passions, have boldly maintained that 
vices have their place as well as virtues, and that 
the true salvation lies in the golden mean. The 
tiruiKfia and (T(t)(j)po<jvvii of the Greeks seem 
to have pointed to the idea of a blend or 
harmonious adjustment of all the powers as the 
perfection of character. Plutarch says {Essay on 
Moral Virtue)^ " This, then, is the function of 
practical reason following nature, to prevent our 
passions either going too far or too short. . . . 
Thus setting bound to the emotional currents, 
it creates in the unreasoning part of the soul moral 
habits which are the mean between excess and 

The English word " gentleman " seems to have 
once conveyed a similar idea. And Emerson, 
among others, maintains that each vice is only 
the " excess or acridity of a virtue," and says 
" the first lesson of history is the good of evil." 

According to this view rightness or wrongness 
cannot be predicated of the passions themselves, 
but should rather be applied to the use of them, 
and to the way they are proportioned to each other 
and to circumstances. As, farther back, we left 


Defence of Criminals 

the region of actions to look for morality in the 
passions that lie behind action, so now we leave 
the region of the passions to look for it in the power 
that lies behind the passions and gives them their 
place. This is a farther move in the same direc- 
tion as before, and possibly will bring us to a more 
satisfactory conclusion. There are still difficulties, 
however, the chief ones lying in the want of 
definiteness which necessarily attaches to our 
dealings with these remoter tracts of human 
nature ; and in our own defective knowledge of 
these tracts. 

For these reasons, and as the subject is a complex 
and difficult one, I would ask the reader to dwell 
for a few minutes longer on the considerations 
which show that it is really as impossible to draw 
a fixed line between moral and immoral passions 
as it is between moral and immoral actions, and 
which therefore force us, if we are to find any 
ground of morality at all, to look for it in some 
further region of our nature. 

Plato in his allegory of the soul, in the Phaedrus, 
though he apparently divides the passions which 
draw the human chariot into two classes, the 
heavenward and the earthward — figured by the 
white horse and the black horse respectively — 
does not recommend that the black horse should 
be destroyed or dismissed, but only that he (as 
well as the white horse) should be kept under 
due control by the charioteer. By which he 
seems to intend that there is a power in man 
which stands above and behind the passions, 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

and under whose control alone the human being 
can safely move. In fact, if the fiercer and so- 
called more earthly passions were removed, half 
the driving force would be gone from the chariot 
of the human soul. Hatred may be devilish at 
times — but, after all, the true value of it depends 
on what you hate, on the use to which the passion 
is put. Anger, though inhuman at one time, is 
magnificent at another. Obstinacy may be out 
of place in a drawing-room, but it is the latest 
virtue on a battle-field, when an important position 
has to be held against the full brunt of the enemy. 
And Lust, though maniacal and monstrous in its 
aberrations, cannot in the last resort be separated 
from its divine companion. Love. To let the 
more amiable passions have entire sway notoriously 
does not do : to turn your cheek, too literally, 
to the smiter, is (j)ace Tolstoi) only to encourage 
smiting ; and when society becomes so altruistic 
that everybody runs to fetch the coal-scuttle, we 
feel sure that something has gone wrong. The 
white-washed heroes of our biographies, with their 
many virtues and no faults, do not please us. We 
have an impression that the man without faults 
is, to say the least, a vague, uninteresting being — 
a picture without light and shade — and the con- 
ventional semi-pious classification of character 
into good and bad qualities (as if the good might 
be kept and the bad thrown away) seems both 
inadequate and false. v 

What the student of human nature rather 'has 
to do is not to divide the virtues (so-called) from, 

1 60 

Defence of Criminals 

the vices (so-called), not to separate the black 
horse and the white horse, but to find out what 
is the relation of the one to the other — to see the 
character as a whole, and the mutual interdepen- 
dence of its different parts — to find out what 
that power is which constitutes it a unity, whose 
presence and control makes the man and all his 
actions " right," and in whose absence (if it is 
really possible for it to be entirely absent) the 
man and his actions must be " wrong." 

What we call vices, faults, defects, appear often 
as a kind of limitation : cruelty, for instance, as 
a limitation of human sympathy, prejudice as a 
blindness, a want of discernment ; but it is just 
these limitations — in one form or another — which 
are the necessary conditions of the appearance of 
a human being in the world. If we are to act or 
live at all we must act and live under limits. There 
must be channels along which the stream is forced 
to run, else it will spread and lose itself aimlessly 
in all directions — and turn no mill-wheels. One 
man is disagreeable and unconciliatory — the direc- 
tions in which his sympathy goes out to others are 
few and limited — yet there are situations in life 
(and everyone must know them) when a man who 
is able and zvilling to make himself disagreeable 
is invaluable : when a Carlyle is worth any number 
of Balaams. 

Sometimes again vices, etc., appear as a kind 
of raw material from which the other qualities have 
to be formed, and without which, in a sense, they 
could not exist. Sensuality, for instance, underlies 

i6i I, 

Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

all art and the higher emotions. Timidity is 
the defect of the sensitive imaginative tem.pera- 
ment. Bluntness, stupid candor, and want of 
tact are indispensable in the formation of certain 
types of Reformers. But what would you have ? 
Would you have a rabbit with the horns of a cow, 
or a donkey with the disposition of a spaniel .'' 
The reformer has not to extirpate his brusqueness 
and aggressiveness, but to see that he makes good 
use of these qualities ; and the man has not to 
abolish his sensuality, but to humanise it. 

And so on. Lecky, in his " History of Morals," 
shows how in society certain defects necessarily 
accompany certain excellences of character. 
" Had the Irish peasants been less chaste they 
woulci have been more prosperous," in his blunt 
assertion, which he supports by the contention 
that their early marriages (which render the said 
virtue possible) " are the most conspicuous proofs 
of the national improvidence, and one of the m.ost 
fatal obstacles to industrial prosperity." Similarly 
he says that the gambling table fosters a moral 
nerve and calmness " scarcely exhibited in equal 
perfection in any other sphere " — a fact which 
Bret Harte has .finely illustrated in his character 
of Mr. John Oakhurst in the " Outcasts of Poker 
Flat ; " also that " the promotion of industrial 
veracity is probably the single form in which the 
growth of manufactures exercises a favorable 
influence upon morals ; " while, on the other hand, 
" Trust in Providence, content and resignation in 
extreme poverty and suffering, the most genuine 


Defence of Criminals 

amiability, and the most sincere readiness to 
assist their brethren, an adherence to their religious 
opinions which no persecutions and no bribes 
can shake, a capacity for heroic, transcendent, 
and prolonged self-sacrifice, may be found in some 
nations, in men who are habitual liars and habitual 
cheats." Again he points out that thriftiness 
and forethought — which, in an industrial civilisa- 
tion like ours, are looked upon as duties " of 
the very highest order " — have at other times 
(when the teaching was " take no thought for the 
morrow ") been regarded as quite the reverse, 
and concludes with the general remark that as 
society advances there is some loss for every gain 
that is made, and with the special indictment 
against " civilisation " that it is not favorable to 
the production of " self-sacrifice, enthusiasm, 
reverence, or chastity." 

The point of all which is that the so-called vices 
and defects — whether we regard them as limita- 
tions or whether we regard them as raw materials 
of character, whether we regard them in the 
individual solely or whether we regard them 
in their relation to society — are necessary elements 
of human life, elements without which the so-called 
virtues could not exist ; and that therefore it is 
quite impossible to separate vices and virtues into 
distinct classes with the latent idea involved that 
one class may be retained and the other in course 
of time got rid of. Defects and bad qualities 
will not be treated so — they clamour for their 
rights and will not be denied ; they effect a lodg- 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

ment in us, and we have to put up with them. 
Like the grain of sand in the oyster, we are forced 
to make pearls of them. 

These are the precipices and chasms which 
give form to the mountain. Who wants a mountain 
sprawHng indifferently out on all sides, without 
angle or break, like the oceanic tide-wave of which 
one cannot say whether it is a hill or a plain ? 
And if you want to grow a lily, chastely white 
and filling the air with its fragrance, will you not 
bury the bulb of it deep in the dirt to begin 
with ? 

Acknowledging, then, that it is impossible to 
hold permanently to any line of distinction between 
good and bad passions, there remains no course 
for us but to accept both, and to make use of them 
— redeeming them, both good and bad, from their 
narrowness and limitation by so doing — to make 
use of them in the service of humanity. For as 
dirt is only matter in the wrong place, so evil in 
man consists only in actions or passions which 
are uncontrolled by the human within him, and 
undedicated to its service. The evil consists 
not in the actions or passions themselves, but in 
the fact that they are inhumanly used. The 
most unblemished virtue erected into a barrier 
between one self and a suffering brother or sister 
— the whitest marble image, howsoever lovely, 
set up in the Holy Place of the temple of Man, 
where the spirit alone should dwell — becomes 
blasphemy and a pollution. 

Wherein exactly this human service consists 

Defence of Criminals 

is another question. It may be, and, as the reader 
would gather, probably is, a matter which at the 
last eludes definition. But though it may elude 
exact statement, that is no reason why approxi- 
mations should not be made to the statement of 
it ; nor is its ultimate elusiveness of intellectual 
definition any proof that it may not become a real 
and vital force within the man, and underlying 
inspiration of his actions. To take the two con- 
siderations in order. In the first place, as we saw 
from the beginning, the experience of society is 
continually leading it to classify actions into 
beneficial and harmful, good and bad ; and thus 
moral codes are formed which eat their way from 
the outside into the individual man and become 
part of him. These codes may be looked upon 
as approximations in each age to a statement of 
human service ; but, as we have seen, they are 
by the nature of the case very imperfect ; and 
since the very conditions of the problem are con- 
tinually changing, it seems obvious that a final 
and absolute solution of it by this method is im- 
possible. The second way in which man works 
towards a solution is by the expansion and growth 
of his own consciousness, and is ultimately by 
far the most important — though the two methods 
have doubtless continually to be corrected by each 
other. In fact, as man actually forms a part of 
society externally, so he comes to know and feel 
himself a part of society through his inner nature. 
Gradually, and in the lapse of ages, through the 
development of his sympathetic relation with his 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

fellows, the individual man enters into a wider 
and wider circle of life ; the joys and sorrows, 
the experiences, of his fellov/s become his own 
joys and sorrows, his own experiences ; he passes 
into a life which is larger than his own individual 
life ; forces flow in upon him which determine 
his actions, not for results which return to him 
directly, but for results which can only return to 
him indirectly and through others ; at last the 
ground of humanity, as it v/ere, reveals itself within 
him, the region of human equality — and his actions 
come to flow directly from the very same source 
which regulates and inspires the whole movement 
of society. At this point the problem is solved. 
The growth has taken place from within ; it is 
not of the nature of an external compulsion, but 
of an inwarci compunction. By actual conscious- 
ness the man has taken on an ever-enlarging life, 
and at last the life of humanity, v/hich has no fixed 
form, no ever-valid code ; but is itself the true 
life, surpassing definition, yet inspiring all actions 
and passions, all codes and forms, and determining 
at last their place. 

It is the gradual growth of this supreme life in 
each individual which is the great and indeed 
the only hope of Society — it is that for which 
Society exists : a life which so far from dwarf- 
ing individuality enhances immensely its power, 
causing the individual to move with the weight 
of the universe behind him — and exalting what 
were once his little peculiarities and defects into 
the splendid manifestations of his humanity. 

1 66 

Defence of Criminals 

To return then for a moment to the practical 
bearing of this on the question before us, we 
see that so soon as we have abandoned all codes 
of morals there remains nothing for us but to put 
all our qualities and defects to human use, and 
to redeem them by so doing. Our defects are our 
entrances into life, and the gateway of all our dealings 
with others. Think what it is to be plain and 
homely. The very word suggests an endear- 
ment, and a liberty of access denied to the faultlessly 
handsome. Our very evil passions, so called, are 
not things to be ashamed of, but things to look 
straight in the face and to see what they are good 
for — for a use can be found for them, that is 
certain. The man should see that he is worthy 
of his passion, as the mountain should rear its 
crest conformable to the height of the precipice 
which bounds it. Is it women } let him see 
that he is a magnanimous lover. Is it ambition } 
let him take care that it be a grand one. Is it 
laziness } let it redeem him from the folly of unrest, 
to become heaven-reflecting, like a lake among 
the hills. Is it closefistedness } let it become 
the nurse of a true economy. 

The more complicated, pronounced, or awkward 
the defect is the finer will be the result when it 
has been thoroughly worked up. Love of appro- 
bation is diflicult to deal with. Through sloughs 
of duplicity, of concealment, of vanity, it leads 
its victim. It sucks his sturdy self-life, and 
leaves him flattened and bloodless. Yet once 
mastered, once fairly torn out, cudgeled, and left 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

bleeding on the road (for this probably has to be 
done with every vice or virtue some time or other), 
it will rise up and follow you, carrying a magic 
key round its neck, meek and serviceable now, 
instead of dangerous and demoniac as before. 

Deceit is difficult to deal with. In some sense 
it is the worst fault that can be. It seems to 
disorganise and ultimately to destroy the character. 
Yet I am bold to say that this defect has its uses. 
Severely examined perhaps it will be found that 
no one can live a day free from it. And beyond 
that — is not " a noble dissimulation " part and 
parcel of the very greatest characters : like Socrates, 
" the white soul in a satyr form " ? When the 
divine has descended among men has it not always, 
like Moses, worn a veil before its face ? and what 
is Nature herself but one long and organised system 
of deception ? 

Veracity has an opposite effect. It knits all 
the elements of a man's character — rendering 
him solid rather than fluid ; yet carried out too 
literally and pragmatically it condenses and solidi- 
fies the character overmuch, making the man 
woodeny and angular. And even of that essential 
Truth (truth to the inward and ideal perfection) 
which more than anything else perhaps constitutes 
a man — it is to be remembered that even here 
there must be a limitation. No man can in act 
or externally be quite true to the ideal — though 
in spirit he may be. If he is to live in this world 
and be mortal, it must be by virtue of some partiality, 
some defect. 

1 68 

Defence of Criminals 

And so again — since there is an analogy between 
the Individual and Society — may we not conclude 
that as the individual has ultimately to recognise 
his so-called evil passions and find a place and a 
use for them, society also has to recognise its so- 
called criminals and discern their place and use ? 
The artist does not omit shadows from his canvas ; 
and the wise statesman will not try to abolish the 
criminal from society — lest haply he be found 
to have abolished the driving force from his social 

From what has now been said it is quite clear 
that in general we call a man a criminal, not be- 
cause he violates any eternal code of morality — 
for there exists no such thing — but because he 
violates the ruling code of his time, and this 
depends largely on the ideal of the time. The 
Spartans appear to have permitted theft because 
they thought that thieving habits in the com- 
munity fostered military dexterity and discouraged 
the accumulation of private wealth. They looked 
upon the latter as a great evil. But to-day the 
accumulation of private wealth is our great good 
and the thief is looked upon as the evil. When 
however we find, as the historians of to-day teach 
us, that society is now probably passing through 
a parenthetical stage of private property from 
a stage of communism in the past to a stage of 
more highly developed communism in the future, 

' The derivation of the word " wicked " seems uncertain. 
May it be suggested that it is connected with " wick " or " quick," 
meaning alive } 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

it becomes clear that the thief (and the poacher 
before-mentioned) is that person who is protesting 
against the too-exclusive domination of a passing 
ideal. Whatever should we do without him ? 
He is keeping open for us, as Hinton I think 
expresses it, the path to a regenerate society, and 
is more useful to that end than many a platform 
orator. He it is that makes Care to sit upon 
the Crupper of Wealth, and so, in course of 
time, causes the burden and bother of private 
property to become so intolerable that society 
gladly casts it down on common ground. Vast 
as is the machinery of Law, and multifarious 
the ways in which it seeks to crush the thief, 
it has signally failed, and fails ever more and 
more. The thief v/ill win. He v/ill get what 
he wants, but (as usual in human life !) in a 
way and in a form very different from v/hat he 

And when we regard the thief in himself, we 
cannot say that we find him less human than 
other classes of society. The sentiment of large 
bodies of thieves is highly communistic among 
themselves ; and if they thus represent a survival 
from an earlier age, they might also be looked 
upon as the precursors of a better age in the future. 
They have their pals in every town, with runs and 
refuges always open, and are lavish and generous 
to a degree to their own kind. And if they look 
upon the rich as their natural enemies and fair 
prey, a view which it might be difficult to gainsay, 
many of them at any rate are animated by a good 


Defence of Criminals 

deal of the Robin Hood spirit, and are really 
helpful to the poor. 

I need not I think quote that famous passage 
from Lecky in which he shows how the prostitute, 
through centuries of suffering and ill-fame, has 
borne the curse and contempt of Society in order 
that her more fortunate sister might rejoice in 
the achievement of a pure marriage. The ideal 
of a monogamic union has been established in a 
sense directly by the slur cast upon the free woman. 
If, however, as many people think, a certain 
latitude in sexual relations is not only admissible 
but, in the long run, and within bounds, desir- 
able, it becomes clear that the prostitute is that 
person who against heavy odds, and at the cost of 
a real degradation to herself, has clung to a tradi- 
tion which, in itself good, might otherwise have 
perished in the face of our devotion to the splendid 
ideal of the exclusive marriage. There has been 
a time in history when the prostitute (if the word 
can properly be used in this connection) has been 
glorified, consecrated to the temple-service and 
honoured of men and gods (the hierodouloi of 
the Greeks, the kodeshoth and kodeshim of the 
Bible, etc.) There has also been a time when 
she has been scouted and reviled. In the future 
there will come a time when, as free companion, 
really free from the curse of modern commercialism, 
and sacred and respected once more, she v/ill 
again be accepted by society and take her place 
with the rest. 

And so with other cases. On looking back 

Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

into history we find that almost every human 
impulse has at some age been held in esteem 
and allowed full play ; thus man came to recognise 
its beauty and value. But then, lest it should 
come (as it surely would) to tyrannise over the 
rest, it has been dethroned, and so in a later age 
the same quality is scouted and banned. Last 
of all it has to find its perfect human use and to 
take its place with the rest. Up to the age of 
Civilisation (according to writers on primitive 
Society) the early tribes of mankind, though 
limited each in their habits, were essentially 
democratical in structure. In fact, nothing had 
occurred to make them otherwise. Each member 
stood on a footing of equality with the rest ; 
individual men had not in their hands an arbitrary 
power over others ; and the tribal life and standard 
ruled supreme. And when, in the future and on 
a much higher plane, the true Democracy comes, 
this equality which has so long been in abeyance 
will be restored, not only among men but also, 
in a sense, among all the passions and qualities 
of manhood : none will be allowed to tyrannise 
over others, but all will have to be subject to the 
supreme life of humanity. The chariot of Man 
instead of two horses will have a thousand ; but 
they will all be under control of the charioteer. 
Meanwhile it may not be extravagant to suppose 
that all through the Civilisation-period the so- 
called criminals are keeping open the possibility 
of a return to this state of society. They are 
preserving, in a rough and unattractive husk 


Defence of Criminals 

it may be, the precious seed of a life which is to 
come in the future ; and are as necessary and 
integral a part of society in the long run as the 
most respected and most honoured of its members 
at present. 

The upshot then of it all is that " morals " as 
a permanent code of action have to be discarded. 
There exists no such permanent code. One age, 
one race, one class, one family, may have a code 
which the users of it consider valid, but only they 
consider it valid, and then only for a time. The 
Decalogue may have been a rough and useful 
ready-reckoner for the Israelites ; but to us it 
admits of so many exceptions and interpretations 
that it is practically worthless. " Thou shalt not 
steal." Exactly ; but who is to decide, as we saw 
at the outset, in what " stealing " consists ? The 
question is too complicated to admit of an answer. 
And when we /lave caught our half-starved tramp 
" sneaking " a loaf, and are ready to condemn him, 
lo ! Lycurgus pats him on the back, and the 
modern philosopher tells him that he is keeping 
open the path to a regenerate society ! If the 
tramp had also been a philosopher, he would per- 
haps have done the same act not merely for his 
own benefit but for that of society, he would 
have committed a crime in order to save man- 

There is nothing left but Humanity. Since 
there is no ever-valid code of morals we must 
sadly confess that there is no means of proving 
ourselves right and our neighbours wrong. In 

Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

fact the very act of thinking whether we are right 
(which implies a sundering of ourselves, even in 
thought, from others) itself introduces the element 
of wrongness ; and if we are ever to be " right " 
at all, it must be at some moment when we fail 
to notice it — when we have forgotten our apartness 
from others and have entered into the great region 
of human equality. Equality — in that region 
all human defects are redeemed ; they all find their 
place. To love your neighbour as yourself is the 
whole law and the prophets ; to feel that you are 
" equal " with others, that their lives are as your 
life, that your life is as theirs — even in what tri- 
fling degree we may experience such things — is 
to enter into another life which includes both sides; 
it is to pass beyond the sphere of moral distinctions, 
and to trouble oneself no more with them. Be- 
tween lovers there are no duties and no rights ; 
and in the life of humanity, there is only an instinctive 
mutual service expressing itself in whatever way 
may be best at the time. Nothing is forbidden, 
there is nothing which may not serve. The 
law of Equality is perfectly flexible, is adaptable 
to all times and places, finds a place for all the 
elements of character, justifies and redeems them 
all without exception ; and to live by it is perfect 
freedom. Yet not a law : but rather as said, a 
new life, transcending the individual life, work- 
ing through it from within, lifting the self into 
another sphere, beyond corruption, far over the 
world of Sorrow. 

The effort to make a distinction between acting 

Defence of Criminals 

for self and acting for one's neighbor is the basis 
of " morals." As long as a man feels an ultimate 
antagonism between himself and society, as long 
as he tries to hold his own life as a thing apart 
from that of others, so long must the question arise 
whether he v/ill act for self or for those others. 
Hence flow a long array of terms — distinctions of 
right and wrong, duty, selfishness, self-renuncia- 
tion, altruism, etc. But when he discovers that 
there is no ultimate antagonism between himself 
and society ; when he finds that the gratification 
of every desire which he has or can have may be 
rendered social, or beneficial to his fellows, by 
being used at the right time and place, and on 
the other hand that every demand made upon 
him by society will and must gratify some portion 
of his nature, some desire of his heart — why, 
all the distinctions collapse again ; they do not 
hold water any more. A larger life descends 
upon him, which includes both sides, and prompts 
actions in accordance with an unwritten and un- 
imagined law. Such actions will sometimes be 
accounted " selfish " by the world ; sometimes 
they will be accounted ** unselfish " ; but they 
are neither, or — if you like — both ; and he who 
does them concerns himself not with the names 
that may be given to them. The law of Equality 
includes all the moral codes, and is the stand- 
point which they cannot reach, but which they 
all aim at. 

Judged by this final standard then, it may 
doubtless fairly be said — since we all fall short 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

of it — that we are all criminals, and deserve a 
good hiding ; and even that some of us are greater 
criminals than others. Only of this real 
criminality the actual moral and legal codes afford 
but ineffectual tests. I may be a far worse or 
more self-included (" idiotic " or brutal) man 
than you, but the mere fact that I have violated 
the laws and been clapped into prison does not 
prove it. There may be, probably is, a real and 
eternal difference represented by the words Right 
and Wrong, but no statement that we can make 
will ever quite avail to define it. One use, however, 
of all these laws and codes in the past, imperfect 
though they were, may have been to gradually 
excite the consciousness in the individual of his 
opposition to society, and so prepare the way for 
a true reconcilement. As Paul says, " I had not 
known sin, but by the law," and, if we had not 
been cudgeled and bruised for centuries by this 
rough bludgeon of social convention, we should 
not now be so sensitive as we are to the effect of 
our actions upon our neighbours, nor so ready for 
a social life in the future which shall be superior 
to law. 

Of course, the ultimate reconcilement of the 
individual with society — of the unit Man with 
the mass-Man — involves the subordination of the 
desires, their subjection to the true self. And 
this is a most important point. It is no easy lapse 
that is here suggested, from morality into a mere 
jungle of human passion, but a toilsome and long 
ascent — involving for a time at any rate a deter- 


Defence of Criminals 

mined self-control — into ascendancy over the 
passions ; it involves the complete mastery, one 
by one, of them all, and the recognition and allow- 
ance of them only because they are mastered. 
And it is just this training and subjection of the 
passions — as of winged horses which are to draw 
the human chariot — which necessarily forms such 
a long and painful process of human evolution. 
The old moral codes are a part of this process ; 
but they go on the plan of extinguishing some of 
the passions — seeing that it is sometimes easier 
to shoot a restive horse than to ride him. We 
however do not want to be lords of dead carrion, 
but of living powers ; and every steed that we can 
add to our chariot makes our progress through 
creation so much the more splendid, providing 
Phoebus indeed hold the reins, and not the incap- 
able Phaeton. 

And by becoming thus one with the social self, 
the individual, instead of being crushed, is made 
far vaster, far grander than before. The re- 
nunciation (if it must be so called) which he has 
to accept in abandoning merely individual ends 
is immediately compensated by the far more 
vivid life he now enters into. For every force 
of his nature can now be utilised. Planting him- 
self out by contrast he stands all the firmer because 
he has a left foot as well as a right, and when he 
acts, he acts not half-heartedly as one afraid, but, 
as it were, with the whole weight of Humanity 
behind him. In abandoning his exclusive in- 
dividuality he becomes for the first time a real 

177 M 

Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

and living individual ; and in accepting as his 
own the life of others he becomes aware of a life 
in himself that has no limit and no end. That 
the self of any one man is capable of an infinite 
gradation from the most petty and exclusive exis- 
tence to the most magnificent and inclusive seems 
almost a truism. The one extreme is disease and 
death, the other is life everlasting. When the 
tongue for example — which is a member of the 
body — regards itself as a purely separate existence 
for itself alone, it makes a mistake, it suffers an 
illusion, and descends into its pettiest life. What 
is the consequence ? Thinking that it exists 
apart from the other members, it selects food just 
such as shall gratify its most local self, it endeavours 
just to titillate its own sense of taste ; and living 
and acting thus, ere long it ruins that very sense 
of taste, poisons the system with improper food, 
and brings about disease and death. Yet, if healthy, 
how does the tongue act ? Why, it does not 
run counter to its own sense of taste, or stultify 
itself. It does not talk about sacrificing its own 
inclinations for the good of the body and the other 
members ; but it just acts as being one in interest 
with them and they with it. For the tongue 
is a muscle, and therefore what feeds it feeds all 
the other muscles ; and the membrane of the 
tongue is a prolongation of the membrane of 
the stomach, and that is how the tongue knows 
what the stomach will like ; and the tongue is 
nerves and blood, and so the tongue may act for 
nerves and blood all over the body, and so on. 


Defence of Criminals 

Therefore the tongue may enter into a wider life 
than that represented by the mere local sense of 
taste, and experiences more pleasure often in the 
drinking of a glass of water which the whole 
body wants, than in the daintiest sweetmeat which 
is for itself alone. 

Exactly so man in a healthy state does not act 
for himself alone, practically cannot do so. Nor 
does he talk cant about " serving his neighbors," 
etc. But he simply acts for them as well as for 
himself, because they are part and parcel of his 
life — bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh ; and 
in doing so he enters into a wider life, finds a more 
perfect pleasure, and becomes more really a man 
than ever before. Every man contains in him- 
self the elements of all the rest of humanity. They 
lie in the background ; but they are there. In 
the front he has his own special faculty developed 
— his individual facade, with its projects, plans 
and purposes : but behind sleeps the Demos- 
life with far vaster projects and purposes. Some 
time or other to every man must come the con- 
sciousness of this vaster life. 

The true Democracy, wherein this larger life 
will rule society from within — obviating the need 
of an external government — and in which all 
characters and qualities will be recognised and 
have their freedom, waits (a hidden but necessary 
result of evolution) in the constitution of human 
nature itself. In the pre-Civilisation period these 
vexed questions of " morals " practically did not 
exist ; simply because in that period the individual 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

was one with his tribe and moved (unconsciously) 
by the larger life of his tribe. And in the post- 
Civilisation period, when the true Democracy is 
realised, they will not exist, because then the man 
will know himself a part of humanity at large, 
and will be consciously moved by forces belonging 
to these vaster regions of his being. The moral 
codes and questionings belong to Civilisation, 
they are part of the forward effort, the struggle, 
the suffering, and the temporary alienation from 
true life, which that term implies.^ 

I For further on the same subject see the last chapter, infroy 
on "The New Morality." 



" Creation's incessant unrest, exfoliation." 


I THINK it may perhaps be agreed, once for 
all, that the human mind is incapable of 
really defining even the smallest fact of 
nature. The simplest thing, or event, baffles 
us at the last. It is like trying to look at the 
front and back of a mirror at the same time. The 
utmost squinting avails not. The ego and the 
non-ego dance eluding through creation. To 
catch them both in any mortal object and pin them 
there, surpasses our powers. And yet they are 
there. Montaigne quotes somewhere the words 
of S. Augustine : Modus quo corporibus adhaerent 
spiritus . . . omnino mirus est^ nee comprehendi 
ab homine potest; et hoc ipse homo est. "The 
manner whereby spirits adhere to bodies is alto- 
gether wonderful, and cannot be conceived of by 
men ; and yet this is man." Man himself 
contains, or rather is, the reconcilement of 
this and numberless other contradictions. We 
actually every day perform and exhibit miracles 
which the mental part of us is utterly powerless 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

to grapple with. Yet the solution, the intelli- 
gent solution and understanding of them is 
in us ; only it involves a higher order of 
consciousness than we usually deal with — 
a consciousness possibly which includes and 
transcends the ego and the non-ego, and so can 
envisage both at the same time and equally — a 
fourth-dimensional consciousness to whose gaze 
the interiors of solid bodies are exposed like mere 
surfaces — a consciousness to whose perception 
some usual antitheses like cause and effect, matter 
and spirit, past and future, simply do not exist. 
I say these higher orders of consciousness are in 
us waiting for their evolution ; and, until they 
evolve, we are powerless really to understand any- 
thing of the world around us. 

Meanv/hile, since we must have formulae and 
generalisations to think by, we are fain to accept 
our local views, and look on the world from this 
side or from that. Sometimes we are idealists, 
sometimes we are materialists ; sometimes we 
believe in mechanics, sometimes in human or 
spiritual forces. The science of the last fifty years 
has, as pointed out in a preceding paper, looked 
at things more from the mechanical than the 
distinctively human side — from the point of view 
of the non-ego, rather than of the ego. Reacting 
from an extreme tendency towards a subjective 
view of phenomena, which characterised the older 
speculations, and fearing to be swayed by a kind 
of partiality towards himself, the modern scientist 
has endeavoured to remove the human and con- 



scious element from his observations of Nature. 
And he has done valuable work in this way — but 
of course has been betrayed into a corresponding 

In fact the main scientific doctrine of the day, 
Evolution, is obviously suffering from this treat- 
ment, and the following remarks are merely a few 
notes by way of suggestion of some things which 
may be said on its more specially human side. 
For since each man is a part of nature, and in 
that sense a part also of the evolution-process, 
his own subjective experience ought at least 
to throw some light on the conditions under 
which evolution takes place, and to contribute 
something towards an understanding of the 

If the question is : What is the cause of Varia- 
tion among animals ? some approximation towards 
an answer ought to be got by each person asking 
himself, " Why do I vary ? " Why — he might 
say — am I a different person from what I was ten 
years ago, or when I was a boy ? Why have I 
varied in one direction and my brothers and 
sisters from the same nest in other directions ? 
Though my individual consciousness only covers 
the small ground of my own life, and does not 
extend back to that of my father or forward to 
that of my son, still the intimate knowledge that 
I have of the forces acting on me during that short 
period may help me to an understanding of the 
forces that bring about the modification of men 
and animals at large, and the discovery of some 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

laws of my own growth may reveal to me the laws 
of race-growth. 

In answer to such a question, it would speedily 
appear that there were two general causes deter- 
mining direction of change or growth in the 
individual, which might be conveniently dis- 
tinguished from each other — an external and an 
internal. In the first place the supposed person 
might say, " External conditions forced me along 
these lines. My father was a town artisan, but 
he apprenticed me to a farmer. I grew up a far- 
mer's boy, and became an agricultural type as you 
see. I did not particularly care for farming, 
sometimes indeed I would have been glad to be 
out of it ; but practically I succumbed to cir- 
cumstances, and here I am." But in the second 
place he might answer thus : — " My father was 
himself a farmer ; I was early used to the craft, 
and should no doubt have grown up in it, had 
I not hated it like poison. I loved music, broke 
away from home, joined a band, got on the musical 
staff of a small theatre, and am now a professional 
musician. My frame is comparatively slight, and 
my hands are of the nervous type, as you see. Of 
course, I have some of the old agricultural stock 
left in me, but I feel that that is dying out." 
The one cause would be a change of external 
conditions, forcing the man to accommodate him- 
self to them ; the other would be a change of 
internal conditions, an inward growth, expressing 
itself first in the form of an intense desire, and 
compelling the man to change himself and pro- 



bably also his environment in obedience to it. 
Two such general sets of causes, I say, could be 
roughly distinguished from each other ; and 
probably indeed are recognised less or more dis- 
tinctly by everyone as acting to modify his life. 
Nor can the life of a man at any time be said to 
be ruled by one of these forces alone. No man 
is modified by external conditions alone, with- 
out any play or reaction of inner needs and desires 
and growth from within ; nor is any man trans- 
formed in obedience to an inner expansion without 
sundry lets and hindrances from without. The 
two forces are in constant play upon one another ; 
but in some ways that would appear to be the 
more important which proceeds from the Man 
(or creature) himself, since this is obviously vital 
and organic to him, and therefore the most con- 
sistent and reliable factor in his modification, 
while the external force — arising from various 
and remote causes — must rather be regarded 
as discontinuous and accidental. 

I propose, therefore, in these few pages to 
consider especially this inner force producing 
modification in man and animals — to try and 
find out of what nature it is, what is the law, and 
what are the limits of its action — premising always, 
as already suggested, that this distinction between 
" inner " and " outer," which is convenient and 
easy to handle on certain planes of thought, may 
ultimately, and in the last resort, prove very 
difficult or even impossible to maintain. 

It is often said by Biologists \.}\2it function precedes 

Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

organisation — that is, man fights with his fellows 
before he makes weapons to fight with ; the 
rudimentary animal digests food (as in the case 
of the amoeba) before it acquires a stomach or 
organ of digestion ; it sees or is sensitive to light 
before it grov/s an eye ; in society letters are carried 
by private hands before an organised postal system 
is created. Such facts properly considered are 
of vital importance. They show us, as it were by 
a sign-post, the direction of creation. They show 
how any new thing or modification of an old thing 
may come into being. They may be supplemen- 
ted by a second statement — namely that desire 
precedes function. That is, man desires to injure 
his fellow before he actually fights with him ; he 
experiences the wish to communicate with distant 
friends before ever he thinks of sending such a 
thing as a letter ; the amoeba craves for food 
first, and circumvents its prey afterwards. Desire, 
or inward change, comes first, action follows, 
and organisation or outward structure is the 

In man this " order of creation," if it may so 
be called, i.e.^ from within outwards, is very marked. 
Whenever a man creates anything new he pursues 
it ; when he builds a house, for instance, or com- 
poses a poem or piece of music, or designs an 
Alpine tunnel, or whatever it may be. The 
order seems to be : first, a feeling — a dim want 
or desire ; then the feeling becomes conscious 
of itself, takes shape in thought ; the thought 
becomes more defined and issues in a distinct plan ; 



the plan is committed to paper, models are made, 
etc. ; and finally the actual work is begun and 
completed. The process appears as a movement 
from within outwards — the earliest and most 
authentic discernible source of the movement 
being a feeling — (though there may lie something 
behind that). Even in ordinary action the same 
order is manifest ; for, though of course every 
action is not preceded by desire — since we know 
that actions soon become habitual and more or 
less unconscious — still a vast number of them are 
immediately so preceded ; and in the case of any 
action that is nevo^ either to the individual or to 
the race, its inception is generally accompanied 
by effort so painful that it would not be exerted 
unless the desire were very strong. The difficulty 
which a man experiences in learning any new art, 
and the records of the many failures, struggles, 
oppositions, persecutions, etc., which have at- 
tended every new invention or innovation of 
any kind in human history, afford plenty of evi- 
dence of this last point. Certainly the effort that 
accompanies a new action is not always faced so 
much from sheer desire of the new thing itself 
as from fear perhaps of something else — as it 
may be contended that monkeys did not take 
to climbing trees because they loved trees, but 
because they feared the beasts below, or that the 
giraffe did not stretch its neck because it particu- 
larly desired to feed on leaves, as because it could 
not get food any other way — but still, even in 
these cases the desire may be said to exist, though 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

it is secondary — being founded upon another 
and more elementary desire — the desire namely 
of escaping pain or obtaining food. In either 
case a desire of some kind is a precedent condition 
of the new action. And so as we know of no 
case of a new action coming into play without 
being preceded by desire, we seem to be justified 
in supposing that all our actions when they were 
first initiated (in our forefathers, if not in ourselves) 
were so preceded. If this is so, then, since function 
is always preceded by desire, and organisation is 
preceded by function, organisation must necessarily 
be preceded by desire. And if this is the order 
of creation in man, should we not reasonably 
look in this direction for the key to the variation 
of animals and the order of creation in general ? ^ 
If a farmer's son is occasionally born who hates 
farming and loves music, and who ultimately 
through the force of his desire (driving him into 
oppositions and difficulties and penurious strug- 
gles) transforms himself into a musician, is it 
not also likely that occasionally an animal is born 
who hates the customs of his tribe, and at last 
(also through struggles) transforms himself into 
something else ? Even if he does not succeed 
(the animal) in entirely transforming himself, 
he likely transmits the desire in some degree to 

' This does not, of course, preclude the action of external 
conditions, or imply that organisation is determined by desire 
alone. In fact organisation may be regarded as the expression 
of desire acting under conditions — as in the cases of the monkey 
and giraffe above. 



his descendants, and the transformation is thus 
carried on and completed later. For everywhere 
among the animals there is desire, of some kind 
or another, obviously acting ; and if in man, by 
our own experience, desire is the precursor and 
first expression of growth, is there any reason 
why it should not also be so among animals ? 
Lamarck gives the instance — among others — 
of a gasteropod ; how the need or desire of touch- 
ing bodies in front of it as it crawled along would 
result in the formation of tentacles. The gaste- 
ropod, he says, would keep making efforts to feel 
with the front of its head, and the determination 
of consciousness that way would be accompanied 
by a supply of nervous and other fluids, which would 
nourish the part and cause growth there — the 
form of the growth continuing in the same way 
to be determined by need — till at last two or more 
tentacles would appear. True, the inward deter- 
minations of consciousness may not be so vivid 
and varied in animals as they are in men ; but 
they are persistent, and by the very cumulative 
force of habit which is so strong in animals, must 
at length penetrate down through function into 
organisation and external form. Who shall say 
that the lark, by the mere love of soaring and 
singing in the face of the sun, has not altered the 
shape of its wings, or that the forms of the shark 
or of the gazelle are not the long-stored results 
of character leaning always in certain directions, 
as much as the forms of the miser or the libertine 

are among men } 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

Such modification as this is very different from 
the " survival of the fittest " of the Darwinian 
evolution theory. We may fairly suppose that 
both kinds of modification take place ; but the 
latter is a sort of easy success won by an external 
accident of birth — a success of the kind that would 
readily be lost again ; while the former is the uphill 
fight of a nature that has grown inwardly and 
wins expression for itself in spite of external obstacles 
— an expression which therefore is likely to be 
permanent. If the progenitors of man took to 
going upright on tv/o legs instead of on all fours, 
merely because a few of them by chance were 
born with a talent for that position, which enabled 
them to escape the fanged and pursuing beasts, 
then when this danger was removed they might 
have plumped down again into the old attitude ; 
but if the change was part and parcel of a true 
evolution, the fulfilment of a positive desire for 
the upright position, a true unfolding of a higher 
form latent within — an organic growth of the 
creature itself, then, though the moment of the 
evolution of this particular faculty might be deter- 
mined by the fanged beasts, the fact of such evolu- 
tion could not be determined by them. Besides, 
are we to suppose that Man, the lord and ruler 
of the animals, came merely by way of escape 
from the animals } Do lords and rulers generally 
come so ? Was it fear that made him a man .'' 
Were it not likelier that in that case he would 
have turned into a worm } He would have escaped 
better perhaps that way. Is it not rather probable 



that It was some nobler power that worked trans- 
forming — some dim desire and prevision of a 
more perfect form, the desire itself being the 
first consciousness of the urge of growth in that 
direction — that prompted him to push in the one 
direction rather than the other when he had to 
hold his own against the tigers ? In fact is it not 
thus to-day, when a man has to meet danger, that 
the ideal which he has within him determines 
how he shall meet that danger, and others like it, 
and so ultimately determines the whole attitude 
and carriage of his body ? 

On the whole then, judging from man himself 
(and it seems most cautious and scientific to derive 
our main evidence from the being that we are 
best acquainted v/ith), it certainly seems to me 
that, though the external conditions are a very im- 
portant factor in Variation, the central explana- 
tion of this phenomenon should be sought in an 
inner law of Growth — a law of expansion more or 
less common to all animate nature. Partly because, 
as said before, the unfolding of the creature from 
its own needs and inward nature is an organic 
process, and likely to be persistent, while its 
modification by external causes must be more 
or less fortuitous and accidental and sometimes 
in one direction and sometimes in another ; partly 
also because the movement from within outwards 
seems to be most like the law of creation in general. 
Under this view the external conditions would 
be considered a secondary — though important 
cause of modification ; and regarded rather as 


Civilisation ; Its Cause and Cure 

the influences that give form and detail to the 
great primal impulse of growth from within ; 
while the creature's own ingenuity and good luck 
would occupy the ground between the two — as 
the means whereby the external conditions in 
each individual case would be turned to account 
to satisfy the inner needs, or the inner life would 
be accommodated to the external conditions. 

If we take the external view of Variation — which 
is the one most favoured by modern science — 
modification or race-growth appears as an uncon- 
scious or accretive process, similar to the forma- 
tion of a coral reef. There is no line of growth 
native in the race itself, but at any moment it 
is supposed to have an equal tendency to vary 
in any direction. Surrounding conditions act 
selectively ; and by a process of weeding out 
certain types survive ; small successive modi- 
fications are thus accumulated ; and gradually 
and in the lapse of ages a more pliable and differ- 
entiated creature, and more adaptable to a variety 
of conditions, is produced — in whom however 
mind is incidental, and has played but small part 
in the creature's evolution. This in the main 
is the Darwinian-evolution theory. 

If we take the internal view, growth is from 
the first eminently conscious. Every change 
begins in the mental region — is felt first as a desire 
gradually taking form into thought, passes down 
into the bodily region, expresses itself in action 
(more or less dependent on conditions), and 
finally solidifies itself in organisation and structure. 



The process is not accretive, but exfoliatory — 
a continual movement from within outwards. 
When the desire or mental condition, which at 
first was painfully conscious, has overcome opposi- 
tion and established itself in altered bodily structure, 
it has done its work, and becomes unconscious — 
— the bodily function continuing for a long period 
to act automatically, till finally it is thrown off 
to make room for some later development. Thus 
race-growth or Variation is a process by which 
change begins in the mental region, passes into 
the bodily region where it becomes organised, 
and finally is thrown off like a husk. This may 
be called the theory of Exfoliation. 

To illustrate our meaning. Let us take the 
development of an eye. In the amoeba there 
is a dim pervasive sensitiveness to light over the 
whole body, but there is no eye, nothing that 
we should call vision. Still this vague sensitive- 
ness is of use to the amoeba. The shadow of its 
prey falling upon the creature and exciting a 
sensation hardly yet differentiated from touch 
helps to guide its movements. On this dim sen- 
sation it relies to some extent ; its attention is 
directed towards it. Gradually, and in some 
descendant form, there comes to be a point on 
the body on which this attention is most specially 
concentrated. The faculty is localised ; and from 
that moment a change is effected there, a differen- 
tiation and a special structure ; everything that 
favours sensitiveness is encouraged at that place, 
everything that dulls it is removed ; and before 

193 N 

Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

long — there is a rudimentary eye. To-day we 
use our perfected eyes, and are hardly conscious 
that we are doing so ; but every power of vision 
that we have was thus won for us by some lowUer 
creature, step by step, with effort and with con- 
centration. Or to take an illustration from society. 
To-day society is ill at ease ; a dim feeling of 
discontent pervades all ranks and classes. A new 
sense of justice, of fraternity, has descended 
among us, which is not satisfied with mere chatter 
of demand and supply. For a long time this new 
sentiment or desire remains vague and unformed, 
but at last it resolves itself into shape ; it takes 
intellectual form, books are written, plans formed ; 
then after a time definite new organisations, for 
the "distinct purpose of expressing these ideas, 
begin to exist in the body of the old society ; and 
before so very long the whole outer structure of 
society will have been reorganised by them. After 
a few centuries the ideas for whose realisation 
we now fight and struggle with an intense con- 
sciousness will have become commonplace, accepted 
institutions, more or less effete and ready to 
succumb before fresh mental births taking place 
from within. 

The modern evolution theory would maintain 
that among many amoebas and descendant forms, 
one would at last by chance be born having the 
usual sensitiveness localised in a particular spot, 
and, surviving by force of this advantage, would 
transmit this " eye " to its posterity ; or that in 
the progress of society, new economic conditions 



having arisen, that people would prosper best 
which most effectually and rapidly adapted itself 
to them. But though there is doubtless truth 
in this view, yet it seems, when all has been said, 
to be inadequate and even feeble ; it omits at least 
one half of the problem. If we look at ourselves, 
as already pointed out, we see the two forces — 
the inner and the outer — acting and re-acting 
on each other. May it not be so in animals ? 
Lamarck, poorly off, blind, derided, was a true 
poet. " Animals vary from low and primitive 
types chiefly by dint of wishing " — and the world 
laughed and still laughs. But it was his deep 
sympathy even with the worms and insects (which 
he studied till he could discern them with his 
mortal eyes no longer) that led Lamarck to see 
the human nature and the human laws that moved 
within them ; and as his outward sight grew dim 
there arose before him the inward vision of the 
true relationship which binds together all living 
creatures — which was indeed a vision of divine 
things, and as different from the mere mechanism- 
theory of the survival of the fittest as the sight 
of the starry heavens is different from a governess's 
lesson on the use of the globes. 

On the theory of Exfoliation, which was practi- 
cally Lamarck's theory, there is a force at work 
throughout creation, ever urging each type onward 
into new and newer forms. This force appears 
first in consciousness in the form of desire. Within 
each shape of life sleep needs and wants without 
number, from the lowest and simplest to the most 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

complex and ideal. As each new desire or ideal 
is evolved, it brings the creature into conflict 
with its surroundings, then gaining its satisfac- 
tion externalises itself in the structure of the creature, 
and leaves the way open for the birth of a new ideal. 
If then we would find a key to the understanding 
of the expansion and growth of all animate creation, 
such a key may exist in the nature of desire itself 
and the comprehension of its real meaning. It 
is not certain that it can be found here ; but it 
may be. 

What then is desire in Man ? Here we come 
back again, as suggested at the outset, to Man 
himself. Though we see pretty clearly that desire 
is at work in the animals, and that it is the same 
in kind as exists in man, still, among the animals 
it is but dim and inchoate, while in man it is deve- 
loped and luminous ; in ourselves, too, we know it 
immediately, while in the animals only by inference. 
For both reasons, therefore, if we want to know 
the nature of desire — even to know its nature 
among animals — we should study it in Man. 
What then is this desire in Man, which seems to 
be the instigation and origin of all his growth 
and development ? At first it seems a hydra- 
headed senseless thing without rhyme or reason ; 
but the more one regards it the more clearly one 
sees that even in its lowest forms it is steadily 
building up and liberating all the functions of 
the human being. In its most perfect form — 
as in what we call Love — it is the sum and solution 
of human activities, that in which they converge, 



for which they all exist, and without which they 
would be considered useless. The more you 
look into this matter, the plainer it becomes. 
The lesser desires — the self-preservation desires — 
hunger, thirst, the desire of power — exist, but 
when they are satisfied they empty themselves 
into this one ; they find their interpretation in 
it. The other desires are nothing by themselves 
— the most absorbing, avarice, ambition, desire 
of knowledge, taken alone, stultify themselves 
— but love perpetuates itself : it is a flame which 
uses all the rest as its fuel. And this Love, 
which is the culmination of desire, does it not 
appear to us as a worship of and desire for the 
human form ? In our bodies a desire for the 
bodily human form ; in our interior selves a 
perception and worship of an ideal human form, 
the revelation of a Splendour dwelling in others, 
which — clouded and dimmed as it inevitably 
may come to be — remains after all one of the most 
real, perhaps the most real, of the facts of exist- 
ence ? Desire, therefore — as it exists in man, 
look at it how you will — as it unfolds and its ulti- 
mate aim becomes clearer and clearer to itself, 
is seen to be the desire and longing for the deliver- 
ance and expression of the real human Being. 
May it not, must it not, be the same thing in 
animals and all through creation ? Beginning 
in the most elementary and dim shapes, does it 
not grow through all the stages of organic life 
clearer and more and more powerful, till at last 
it attains to self-consciousness in humanity and 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

becomes avowedly the leading factor in our develop- 
ment ? 

The desire which runs through creation is one 
desire. Rudimentary at first and hardly con- 
scious of itself, throwing out a tentacle here, a 
foot there, developing an eye, a claw, a nostril, 
a wing, it seeks in innumerable shapes and with 
ever partial success to realise the image it has 
dimly conceived. The animal kingdom is the 
gymnasium, the school, the antechamber, of human- 
ity ; to walk through a zoological garden is to 
see the inchoate types of man, perched on branches, 
or browsing grass, or boring holes in the ground ; 
it is to witness a grand rehearsal of some stupen- 
dous part, whose character we do not even yet 
fully see or understand. From such half-con- 
scious beginnings the desire grows, its aim be- 
comes clearer, till in the higher animals — the horse, 
the dog, the elephant, the bird, and many others 
— it becomes a marked and unmistakable force 
drawing them close to man, uniting them to him 
in a kind of acknowledged kinship, and as obviously 
at work modifying their structure as can be. 
Finally in man himself it becomes an absorbing 
power ; love becomes a conscious worship of the 
divine form ; generation itself is the means where- 
by, in time, the supreme object of desire is realised. 
When at last the perfect Man appears, the key to 
all nature is found, every creature falls into its 
place and finds its Interpreter, and the purpose 
of creation is at last made manifest. 

The Theory of Exfoliation then differs from 


that very specialised form of Evolution which 
has been adopted by modern science, in this 
particular among others : that it fixes the atten- 
tion on that which appears last in order of Time, 
as the most important in order of causation, rather 
than on that which appears first ; and recalls 
to us the fact that often in any succession of pheno- 
mena, that which is first in order of precedence 
and importance is the last to be externalised. 
Thus in the growth of a plant we find leaf after 
leaf appearing, petal within petal — a continual 
exfoliation of husks, sepals, petals, stamens and 
what-not ; but the object of all this movement, 
and that which in a sense sets it all in motion, 
namely the seed, is the very last thing of all to be 
manifested. Or when a volcano breaks out — 
first of all we have a cracking and upheaval of 
superficial layers of ground, then of layers below 
these, then the outflow of lava, and last of all the 
uprush of the inner fires and forces which set 
it all agoing. What appears first in time, or in 
the outer world is — in the case of the building of 
a house, the making of bricks ; in the case of 
the flower, the outermost bracts ; in the case of 
a volcano, the stirring of the surface of the ground ; 
and in the case of Life on the Earth, the appear- 
ance of protoplasms and primordial cells. The 
bricks are not the cause of the house (if indeed 
the word " cause " should be used here at all) 
but rather the house — or the conception of the 
house — is the cause of the bricks ; and the cells not the origin of Man, but Man is the original 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

of the cells. The rationale of sea-anemones and 
mud-fish and flying foxes and elephants has to 
be looked for in man : he alone underlies them. 
And man is not a vertebrate because his ancestors 
were vertebrate ; but the animals are vertebrate, 
because or in so far as they are forerunners and 
offshoots of Man. 

It has been frequently said that great material 
changes are succeeded by intellectual and finally 
by moral revolutions — as the conquests of Alexan- 
der passed on into the literary expansion of the 
Alexandrian schools and thence into the estab- 
lishment of Christianity, or as the mechanical 
developments of our own time have been followed 
by immense literary and scientific activities, and 
are obviously passing over now into a great social 
regeneration ; but a reconsideration of the matter 
might, I take it, lead us not so much to look on 
the later changes as caused by the earlier, as to look 
on the earlier as the indications and first outward 
and visible signs of the coming of the later. When 
a man feels in himself the upheaval of a new moral 
fact, he sees plainly enough that that fact cannot 
come into the actual world all at once — not with- 
out first a destruction of the existing order of 
society — such a destruction as makes him feel 
Satanic ; then an intellectual revolution ; and 
lastly only, a new order embodying the nev/ impulse. 
When this new impulse has thoroughly materialised 
itself, then after a time will come another inward 
birth, and similar changes will be passed through 
again. So it might be said that the work of each 




age is not to build on the past, but to rise out of 
the past and throw it off ; only of course in such 
matters where all forms of thought are inadequate 
it is hard to say that one way of looking at the 
subject is truer than another. As before, we 
should endeavour to look at the thing from different 

We are obliged to use images to think by — e.g. 
the opening of a flower or the accretive growth 
of a coral reef — and possibly it would save a good 
deal of trouble if we did not disguise by long words 
the truth that all our theories in science and philo- 
sophy are simply metaphors of this kind — but 
the fact still lies behind and below them. 

Perhaps, if we are to use the word Cause at 
all, we should do well to use it in the old sense in 
which the final cause and the efficient cause are 
one (the eidos of Aristotle) — to use it not so much 
to link phenomena or externals to each other as 
to link each phenomenon in a group to the thought 
or feeling which underlies that group. The notes 
in the Dead March in Saul, for instance. We 
cannot say that one note is the cause of another, 
but we might say that each note stands in a causal 
subordination to the feeling which inspired the 
piece — which is the origin of the piece and the 
result of its performance — the alpha and omega 
of it. Similarly, the ground floor in a house 
is not the cause of the first floor, nor the first floor 
of the second floor, nor that of the roof ; but these 
actualities and the whole house itself stand in 
strict relationship to a mental something which is 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

not in the same plane with them at all, nor an 
actuality in the same sense. 

According to this view the notion that one 
configuration of atoms or bodies determines the 
next configuration turns out to be illusive. Both 
configurations are determined by a third something 
which does not belong to quite the same order of 
existence as the said atoms or bodies. Chance 
** laws " of succession may doubtless be found 
among physical events, and are valuable for prac- 
tical purposes, but at any moment — owing to their 
superficiality — they may fail. Thus, an insect 
observing the expansion of the petals of a chry- 
santhemum might frame a law of their order 
of succession in size and colour, which would be 
valid for a time, but would fail entirely when the 
stamens appeared. Or, to take another illus- 
tration, physical science acts like a man trying 
to find direct causal relations between the various 
leaves of a tree, without first finding the relations 
of these to the branches and trunk — and so solving 
the problem indirectly. It deals only with the 
surface of the world of Man. 

In thinking about such matters, Music, as 
Schopenhauer shows, is wonderfully illustrative, 
because in creating music man recognises that 
he is creating a world of his own — apart from 
and not to be confused with that other world of 
Nature (in which he does not recognise any of 
his handiwork). Supposing a non-musical person 
were to examine and analyse the score of a Beet- 
hoven symphony, he would be in the same posi- 



tion as a man examining and analysing Nature 
by purely scientific or intellectual methods. He 
would discover the recurrence of certain groups 
among the notes, he would establish laws of their 
sequences, would make all kinds of curious generali- 
sations about them, and point out some remark- 
able exceptions, would even very likely be able 
to predict a bar or two over the page ; his treatise 
would be very learned, and from a certain point 
of view interesting also, but how far would he be 
from any real understanding of his subject ? 
Let him change his method : let him train his ear, 
let him hear the symphony performed, over and 
over, till he understands its meaning and knows 
it by heart ; and then he will know at any rate 
something of why each note is there, he will see 
its fitness and feel in himself the " law " of its 
occurrence, and possibly in some new case will 
be able to predict several bars over the page 1 
The symphony is not understood by examination 
and comparison of the notes alone, but by experi- 
ence of their relation to deepest feelings ; and 
Nature is not explained by laws, but by its be- 
coming — or rather being felt to be — the body 
of Man ; marvellous interpreter and symbol 
of his inward being. 

There is a kind of knowledge or consciousness 
in us — as of our bodily parts, or affections, or 
deep-seated mental beliefs — which forms the base of 
our more obvious and self-conscious thought. This 
systemic knowledge grows even while the brain 
sleeps. It is not by any means absolute or infalli- 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

ble, but it affords, at any moment in man's history, 
the axiomatic ground on which his thought- 
structures, scientific and other, are built. Thus 
the axioms of EucHd are part of our present sys- 
temic knowledge, and afford the ground of all 
our geometry structures. But as the systemic 
consciousness grows, the ground shifts and the 
structures reared upon it fall. All our modern 
science, for instance, is founded on the accepta- 
tion of mechanical cause and effect as a basic 
fact of consciousness ; but when that base gives 
way the entire structure will cave in, and a new 
edifice will have to be reared. Similarly, when 
the human form becomes distinctly visible to us 
in the animals — as an unavoidable part of our 
consciousness — this consciousness will form a new 
base or axiom for all our thought on the subject, 
and the theory of evolution, as hitherto con- 
ceived by science, will be entirely transformed. 

Thus, although the experimental investigatory 
coral-reef accretion method of modern science 
is very valuable within its range, it must not be 
forgotten that the human mind does not progress 
more than temporarily by this method — that its 
progression is a matter of growth from within, 
and involves a continual breaking away of the 
bases of all thought-structures ; so that, while 
this latter — i.e.^ the progression of the systemic 
consciousness of man — is necessary and continuous, 
the rise and fall of his thought-systems is accidental, 
so to speak, and discontinuous. 

It is then finally in Man — in our own deepest 


and most vital experience — that we have to look 
for the key and explanation of the changes 
that we see going on around us in external 
Nature, as we call it ; and our understanding of 
the latter, and of History, must ever depend from 
point to point on the exfoliation of new facts in 
the individual consciousness. Round the ulti- 
mate disclosure of the essential Man all creation 
(hitherto groaning and travailing towards that 
perfect birth) ranges itself, as it were, like some 
vast flower, in concentric cycles ; rank beyond 
rank ; first all social life and history, then the 
animal kingdom, then the vegetable and mineral 
worlds. And if the outer circles have been the 
first in fact to show themselves, it is by this last 
disclosure that light is ultimately thrown on the 
whole plan ; and, as in the myth of the Eden- 
garden, with the appearance of the perfected human 
form that the work of creation definitely completes 



" Whatever is off the hinges of custom is believed to be also 
ofF the hinges of reason ; though how unreasonably, for the most 
part, God knows." — Montaigne. 

EVERY human being grows up inside a 
sheath of custom, which enfolds it as 
the swathing clothes enfold the infant. 
The sacred customs of its early home, how fixed 
and immutable they appear to the child 1 It 
surely thinks that all the world in all times has 
proceeded on the same lines which bound its tiny 
life. It regards a breach of these rules (some of 
them at least) as a wild step in the dark, leading 
to unknown dangers. 

Nevertheless its mental eyes have hardly opened 
ere it perceives, not without a shock, that whereas 
in the family dining-room the meat always pre- 
cedes the pudding, below-stairs and in the cottage 
the pudding has a way of coming before the 
meat ; that, whereas its father puts the manure 
on the top of his seed-potatoes in spring, his 
neighbor invariably places his potatoes on top 
of the manure. All its confidence in the sanctity 



of its home life and the truth of things is upset. 
Surely there must be a right and a wrong way 
of eating one's dinner or of setting potatoes, 
and surely, if any one, " father " or " mother " 
must know what is right. The elders have always 
said (and indeed it seems only reasonable) that 
by this time of day everything has been so thor- 
oughly worked over that the best methods of 
ordering our life — food, dress, domestic practices, 
social habits, etc., have long ago been determined. 
If so, why these divergencies in the simplest and 
most obvious matters ? 

And then other things give way. The sacred 
seeming-universal customs in which we were 
bred turn out to be only the practices of a small 
and narrow class or caste ; or they prove to be 
confined to a very limited locality, and must be 
left behind when we set out on our travels ; or 
they belong to the tenets of a feeble religious sect ; 
or they are just the products of one age in history 
and no other. And the question forces itself 
upon us, Are there really no natural boundaries ? 
has not our life anywhere been founded on reason 
and necessity, but only on arbitrary habit .'' What 
is more important than food, yet in what human 
matter is there more unaccountable divergence of 
practice ? The Highlander flourishes on oatmeal, 
which the Sheffield ironworker would rather starve 
than eat ; the fat snail which the Roman country 
gentleman once so prized now crawls unmolested 
in the Gloucestershire peasant's garden ; rabbits 
are taboo in Germany ; frogs are unspeakable 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

in England ; sauer-kraut is detested in France ; 
many races and gangs of people are quite certain 
they would die if deprived of meat, others think 
spirits of some kind a necessity, while to others 
again both these things are an abomination. 
Every country district has its local practices in 
food, and the peasants look with the greatest 
suspicion on any new dish, and can rarely be 
induced to adopt it. Though it has been abun- 
dantly proved that many of the British fungi 
are excellent eating, such is the force of custom 
that the mushroom alone is ever publicly recog- 
nised, while curiously enough it is said that in some 
other countries where the claims of other agarics 
are allowed the mushroom itself is not used ! 
Finally, I feel myself (and the gentle reader probably 
feels the same) that I would rather die than subsist 
on insects^ such is the deep-seated disgust we 
experience towards this class of food. Yet it is 
notorious that many races of respectable people 
adopt a diet of this sort, and only lately a book 
has been published giving details of the excellent 
provender of the kind that we habitually over- 
look — tasty morsels of caterpillars and beetles, 
and so forth 1 And indeed, when one comes to 
think of it, what can it be but prejudice which 
causes one to eat the periwinkle and reject the 
land-snail, or to prize the lively prawn and pro- 
scribe the cheerful grasshopper } 

It is useless to say that these local and other 
divergencies are rooted in the necessities of the 
localities and times in which they occur. They 



are nothing of the kind. For the most part they 
are mere customs, perhaps grown originally out 
of some necessity, but now perpetuated from simple 
habit and inherent human laziness. This can 
perhaps best be illustrated by going below the 
human to the kingdom of the animals. If cus- 
toms are strong among men they are far stronger 
among animals. The sheep lives on grass, the 
cat lives on mice and other animal food. And 
it is generally assumed that the respective diets 
are the most " natural " in each case, and those 
on which the animals in question will readiest 
thrive, and indeed that thev could not well live 
on any other. But nothing of the kind. For 
cats can be bred up to live on oatmeal and milk 
with next to no meat ; and a sheep has been 
known to get on very comfortably on a diet of port 
wine and mutton chops ! Dogs, whose " natural " 
food in the wild state is of the animal kind, are 
undoubtedly much healthier (at any rate in the 
domestic state) when kept on farinaceous sub- 
stances with little or no meat, and indeed they take 
so kindly to a vegetable diet that they sometimes 
become perfect nuisances in a garden — eating 
strawberries, gooseberries, peas, etc., freely off 
the beds when they have once learned the habit. 
Any one, in fact, who has kept many pets knows 
what an astonishing variety of food they may be 
made to adopt, though each animal in the wild 
state has the most intensely narrow prejudices 
on the subject, and will perish rather than over- 
step the customs of its < tribe. Thus pheasants 

209 o 

Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

will eat fern-roots in winter when snow covers 
the ground, but the grouse " don't eat fern-roots," 
and die in consequence. A wolf of an inquiring 
turn of mind would probably find strawberries 
and peas as good food as a dog does, but it is 
practically certain that any ordinary member of the 
genus would perish in a garden full of the same 
if deprived of his customary bones. 

All this seems to indicate what an immensely 
important part mere custom plays in the life of 
men and animals. The main part of the power 
which man acquires over the animals depends 
upon his establishing habits in them v/hich, once 
established, they never think of violating : and 
the almost insuperable nature of this force in animals 
throws back light on the part it plays in 

Of course, I am not contending in the above 
remarks upon food that there is no physiological 
difference between a dog and a sheep in the matter 
of their digestive organs, and that the one is not 
by the nature of its body more fitted for one kind 
of food than the other ; but rather that we should 
not neglect the importance of mere habit in such 
matters. Custom changed first ; the change of 
physiological structure followed slowly after. 
What happened was probably something like 
this. Some time in the far back past a group of 
animals, driven perhaps by necessity, took to 
hunting in packs in the woods ; it developed a 
modified physical structure in consequence, and 
special habits which in the course of time became 



deeply fixed in the race. Another group saved 
its life by taking to grazing. Grass is poor food ; 
but it was the only chance this group had, and 
in time it got so accustomed to eating grass that 
it could not imagine any other form of diet, and at 
first would refuse even oysters when placed in 
its way 1 Another group saw an opening in trees ; 
it developed a long neck and became the giraffe. 
But the fact that the giraffe lives on leaves, and 
the sheep on grass, and the wolf on animal matter, 
and that custom is in each so strong that at first 
the creature will refuse any other kind of diet, 
does not of itself prove that that diet is the best 
or most physiologically suitable for it. In other 
words, it is an assumption to suppose that " adap- 
tation to environment " is the sole or even the 
main factor in the constitution of well-marked 
varieties or genera ; for this is to neglect (among 
other things) the force of mere use or wont, which 
has about the same import in race-growth that 
momentum has in dynamics ; and causes the race, 
once started in any direction, to maintain its line 
of movement — and often in despite of its environ- 
ment — even for thousands of years. 

Returning to man we see him enveloped in a 
myriad customs — local customs, class customs, 
race customs, family customs, religious customs ; 
customs in food, customs in clothing, customs in 
furniture, form of habitation, industrial production, 
art, social and municipal and national life, etc. ; 
and the question arises. Where is the grain of 
necessity which underlies it all ? How much 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

in each case is due to a real fitness in nature, and 
how much to mere otiose habit ! The first thing 
that meets my eye in glancing out of the window 
is a tile on a neighboring roof. Why are tiles 
made S-shaped in some localities and flat in others ? 
Surely the conditions of wind and rain are much 
the same in all places. Perhaps far back there 
was a reason, but now nothing remains but — 
custom. Why do we sit on chairs instead of 
on the floor, as the Japanese do, or on cushions like 
the Turk ? It is a custom, and perhaps it suits 
with our other customs. The more we look into 
our life and consider the immense variety of 
habit in every department of it — even under 
conditions to all appearances exactly similar — 
the more are we impressed by the absence of any 
very serious necessity in the forms we ourselves 
are accustomed to. Each race, each class, each 
section of the population, each unit even, vaunts 
its own habits of life as superior to the rest, as 
the only true and legitimate forms ; and peoples 
and classes will go to war with each other in asser- 
tion of their own special beliefs and practices ; 
but the question that rather presses upon the 
ingenuous and inquiring mind is, whether any 
of us have got hold of much true life at all ? — 
whether we are not rather mere multitudinous 
varieties of caddis-worms shuffled up in the cast- 
off skins and clothes and debris of those who have 
gone before us, and with very little vitality of 
our own perceptible within ? How many times 
a day do we perform an action that is authentic 



and not a mere mechanical piece of repetition ? 
Indeed, if our various actions and practices were 
authentic and flowing from the true necessity, 
perhaps we shouldn't quarrel with each other 
over them so often as we do. 

And then to come to the subject of morals. 
These also are customs — divergent to the last de- 
gree among different races, at different times, 
or in different localities ; customs for which 
it is often difficult to find any ground in reason 
or the " fitness of things." Thieving is supposed 
to be discountenanced among us, yet our present- 
day trade-morality sanctions it in a thousand dif- 
ferent forms ; and the respectable usurer (who 
can hardly be said to be other than a thief) takes 
a high place at the table of life. To hunt the 
earth for game has from time immemorial been 
considered the natural birthright and privilege 
of man, until the landlord class (whom wicked 
Socialists now denounce !) invented the crime 
of poaching and hanged men for it. As to 
marriage customs, in different times and among 
different peoples, they have been simply innum- 
erable. And here the sense of inviolability in 
each case is most powerful. The severest penalties, 
the most stringent public opinion, biting deep 
down into the individual conscience, enforce the 
various codes of various times and places ; yet 
they all contradict each other. Polygamy in 
one country, polyandry in the next ; brother and 
sister marriage allowed at one time, marriage 
with your mother's cousin forbidden at another ; 


Civilisation ; Its Cause and Cure 

prostitution sacred in the temples of antiquity, 
trampled under foot in the gutters of our great 
cities of to-day ; monogamy respectable in one 
land, a mark of class-inferiority in another ; celi- 
bacy scorned by some sections of people, accepted 
as the highest state by others ; and so on. 

What are we to conclude from all this ? Is 
it possible, once we have fairly faced the immense 
variety of human life in every department of arts, 
manners, and morals — a variety, too, existing 
in a vast number of cases under conditions to 
all intents and purposes quite similar — is it pos- 
sible ever again to suppose that the particular 
practices which we are accustomed to are very 
much better (or, indeed, very much worse) than 
the particular practices which others are accus- 
tomed to ? We have been born, as I said at first, 
into a sheath of custom which enfolds us with our 
swaddling-clothes. When we begin to grow to 
manhood v/e see what sort of a thing it is which 
surrounds us. It is an old husk now. It does 
not bear looking into ; it is rotten, it is inconsistent, 
it is thoroughly indefensible ; yet very likely we 
have to accept it. The caddis-worm has grown 
to its tube and cannot leave it. A little spark of 
vitality amid a heap of dead matter, all it can do 
is to make its dwelling a little more convenient 
in shape for itself, or (like the coral insect) to pro- 
long its growth in the most favourable direction 
for those that come after. The class, the caste, 
the locality, the age in which we were born has 
determined our form of life, and in that form very 



likely we must remain. But a change has come 
over our minds. The vauntings of earlier days 
we abandon. We^ at any rate, are no better than 
anybody else, and at best, alas ! are only half 

If these, then, are our conclusions, is it not 
with justice that children and early races keep 
so rigidly to the narrow path that custom has made 
for them ? Have they not an instinctive feeling 
that to forsake custom would be to launch out on 
a trackless sea where life would cease to have any 
special purpose or direction, and morality would 
be utterly gulfed ? Custom for them is the line 
of their growth ; it is the coral-branch from the 
end of which the next insect builds ; it is the 
hardening bark of the tree-twig which determines 
the direction of the growing shoot. It may be 
merely arbitrary, this custom, but that they do 
not know ; its appearance of finality and necessity 
may be quite illusive ; but the illusion is necessary 
for life, and the arbitrariness is just what makes 
one life different from another. Till he grows 
to manhood^ the human being, he cannot do without 

And when he grows to manhood, what then } 
Why he dies, and so becomes alive. The caddis- 
fly leaves his tube behind and soars into the upper 
air ; the creature abandons its barnacle existence 
on the rock and swims at large in the sea. For 
it is just when we die to custom that, for the first 
time, we rise into the true life of humanity ; it 
is just when we abandon all prejudice of our own 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

superiority over others, and become convinced 
of our entire indefensibleness, that the world opens 
out with comrade faces in all directions ; and 
when we perceive how entirely arbitrary is the 
setting of our own life, that the whole structure 
collapses on which our apartness from others 
rests, and we pass easily and at once into the great 
ocean of freedom and equality. 

This is, as it were, a new departure for man, 
for which even to-day the old world, overlaid with 
myriad customs now brought into obvious and 
open conflict with each other, is evidently preparing. 
The period of human infancy is coming to an 
end. Now comes the time of manhood and true 

Possibly this is a law of history, that when 
man has run through every variety of custom a 
time comes for him to be freed from it — that is, 
he uses it indifferently according to his require- 
ments, and is no longer a slave to it ; all human 
practices find their use, and none are forbidden. 
At this point, whenever reached, " morals " come 
to an end and humanity takes its place — that is to 
say, there is no longer any code of action, but 
the one object of all action is the deliverance of 
the human being and the establishment of equality 
between oneself and another, the entry into a new 
life, which new life when entered into is glad and 
perfect, because there is no more any effort or 
strain in it ; but it is the recognition of oneself 
in others, eternally. 

Far as custom has carried man from man, 


yet when at last in the ever-branching series the 
complete human being is produced, it knows at 
once its kinship with all the other forms. " I 
have passed my spirit in determination and com- 
passion round the whole earth, and found only 
equals and lovers." More, it knows its kinship 
with the animals. It sees that it is only habit, 
an illusion of difference, that divides ; and it 
perceives after all that it is the same human creature 
that flies in the air, and swims in the sea, or walks 
biped upon the land. 


The two following chapters — though not part of 
the original work — are included in the present edition 
because they form continuations or expansions of the 
chapters which criticise modern Science and modern 
Morality respectively. The chapter entitled " A 
Rational and Humane Science " is in fact a re- 
print of an address given before the Humanitarian 
League in London in 1896. // was first included 
in the present volume in 1906. The chapter entitled 
''The New Morality " is^ with slight alterations ^ 
a reprint of an article which appeared in the Albany 
Review in September^ 1907, under the title " Morality 
under Socialism " ; and it now appears in the present 
book for the first time. 



IN bringing before you this subject of a 
Rational and Humane Science you will 
perhaps forgive me if I dwell for a few 
moments on some points of personal history in 
relation to it. After reading mathematics for 
some four years at Cambridge, it happened to me 
for the next ten years or so to be engaged in the 
study of the physical sciences, and in lectures on 
these subjects. Naturally, during the earlier part 
of this period I accepted the current methods and 
conclusions without any question. But as time 
went on I became aware of a certain dissatisfac- 
tion ; I felt that many of the laws of Science, 
enounced as universal truths, were of very limited 
application only, that many of the conclusions, so 
strongly insisted on, were of quite doubtful validity ; 
and at last this increasing dissatisfaction cul- 
minated in a rather violent attack or criticism of 
Modern Science which I wrote and published 
about the year 1884.^ 

' Afterwards reprinted in a modified form, as " Mcdein Scitrce 
—a Criticism," in the first edition (i?S9) cf the present lock. 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

Now, looking back, at this interval of time, 
though I admit that my attack was somewhat 
hasty and crude in detail, I feel that in its main 
contention it was thoroughly justified, and I do 
not feel the least inclined to withdraw it. 

What was that main contention ? It was as 
follows. Modern Science is an attempt (and no 
doubt it would accept this definition of itself) 
to survey and classify the phenomena of the world 
in the pure dry light of the intellect, uncoloured 
by feeling ; and so far is an effort to separate the 
intellectual in man from the merely perceptive, 
the emotional, the moral, and so forth. It was 
in this very fact that my criticism lay ; for I con- 
tended that such a separation was in the long run 
quite impossible. 

But before proceeding to defend this position, 
let me admit at once that this attempt of Modern 
Science to get rid of human feeling and to look 
at everything in the dry light of the intellect was 
in some respects a very grand one. When you 
consider what the Old-time Science was, with its 
fancies and prejudices, its dragons pasturing upon 
the sun and moon in eclipses, its immolations of 
hundreds of human beings to appease some god 
of pestilence or earthquake, its panics, its super- 
stitions, and its incapability of regarding anything 
except from the point of view of that thing's in- 
fluence on man's own comfort and his little hopes 
and fears, it was indeed a grand advance to try 
and see fac/s, uncoloured and for themselves alone. 
It was an effort of Man as it_were to rise above 


A Rational and Humane Science 

himself, to which I accord the fullest credit and 

And yet, during the time spoken of, it kept 
growing on me : first, that the attempt was an 
impossible one ; secondly, that the Science so-called 
was not a true Science ; and thirdly, that in its 
pretence to an intellectual exactitude which it 
did not really possess, this Modern Science was 
leading to a narrow-mindedness and a dogmatism 
as bad as the old. 

There is in fact (so I think) a fallacy in the attempt. 
But how shall I describe it ? Our relations to 
the world may, quite roughly speaking, be divided 
into three groups — those that are sensuous and 
perceptional, those that are purely intellectual, 
and those that are of an emotional and moral order. 
Take any object of Nature — a bird, for instance. 
We may look upon the bird as an object of sense- 
perceptions — its form, its colour, its song, and 
so forth. Some people attain to extraordinary 
skill and quickness in this department, recognising 
in a moment the note or even the flight of a songster. 
Then again we may look upon the bird from the 
intellectual side — we may study it in relation to 
its surroundings — the form of its wings, the length 
of its leg, the character of its beak, and their adap- 
tation to its habits, to its locality, to its food, and 
so forth. Thus we may get a whole series of 
purely intellectual results — relations of the bird 
to the world in which it lives. This is the special 
field of the present-day Science. But, again, we 
may regard the bird in its emotional and moral 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

relations to us. One man at the sight of it may 
be affected with admiration of its beauty, with 
tenderness towards it, or sympathy ; another 
may be stimulated to wonder whether he can kill 
it, or v/hether it is good to eat ! Modern Science 
is indifferent to what this last set of relations may 
be ; it does not concern itself much with the first ; 
but it takes the middle term, the purely intellec- 
tual, and seeks to abstract that from the others, 
to study the bird, or whatever the object may 
be, in the one aspect only. But can that really 
be done ? The answer is, of course, No. 

To show my general meaning, and why I 
consider the claim an impossible one, let us 
imagine a little cell — one of the myriads which 
constitute the human body — professing in the same 
sort of way to stand outside the body and explain 
the laws of the other cells and the body at large. 
It is obvious that the little cell, swept along in 
the currents of the body and swayed by its emotions, 
in close proximity and contact with some portions 
of the organism, and far remote from others, 
cannot possibly pretend to any such impartial 
judgment. It is obvious not only that it would 
not have all the clues of the problem at its command, 
but that its own needs and experiences would 
prejudice it frightfully in the interpretation of 
such clues as it had. Yet man is such a little 
cell in the body of Nature, or, if you like, in 
the body of the Society of which he forms a 
j^^ There is, however, one way, it seems to me, 


A Rational and Humane Science 

in which a cell in the human body might come 
to an adequate understanding of the body ; and 
that would be rather through experience than 
through direct reasoning. It is conceivable that 
there might be some cell in the body which, through 
the nerves, etc., was in actual touch and sym- 
pathetic relationship with every other cell. Then 
it certainly would have the materials of the required 
solution. Every change in other parts of the 
body would register itself in this particular cell ; 
and its little brain (if it had one), without exactly 
making any great effort, would reflect sympatheti- 
cally the structure of the whole body — would 
become, in fact, a mirror of it. This will perhaps 
give you the key to my notion of what a true 
Science might be. 

But before proceeding to that, I want to go a 
little more in detail into the fallacy of the absolute 
intellectual view of Science. I say, first, that a 
complete summary of any object or process in 
Nature is impossible ; secondly, that such sum- 
mary as we do make is, and must inevitably and 
necessarily be, coloured by the underlying feeling 
with which we approach that phase of Nature. 

To take the first point. You say, Why is a 
complete summary not possible } A watch or 
other machine may be completely described and 
defined ; why should not (with a little more 
knowledge) a fir-tree, or the human eye, or 
the solar system, be completely described and 
defined .'* 

And this brings us to what may be called the 

Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

Machine-view of Science. It is curious (and yet 
I think it will presently be seen that it is quite 
what might have been expected) that during this 
century or so, in which Machinery has played 
such an important part in our daily and social life, 
mechanical ideas have come to colour all our 
conceptions of Science and the Universe. Modern 
Science holds it as a kind of ideal (even though 
finding it at times difficult to realise) to reduce 
everything to mechanical action, and to show each 
process of Nature intelligible in the same sense 
as a Machine is intelligible. Yet this conception, 
this ideal, involves a complete fallacy. For the 
moment you come to think of it, you see that 
no part of Nature really even resembles a 

What is a machine in the ordinary sense } It is 
an aggregation of parts put together to fulfil 
certain definite actions and no others. A sewing- 
machine fulfils the purpose of sewing, a watch 
fulfils that of keeping time, and they fulfil those 
purposes only. All their parts subserve those 
actions, and in that sense may be completely 
described — as far as just their mechanical action 
is concerned — the same by a thousand mechanicians. 
But I make bold to say that no object in Nature 
fulfils just one action, or series of actions, and no 
others. On the contrary, every object fulfils an 
endless series of actions. 

Let us take the Human Eye. And I choose 
this as an instance most adverse to my position, 
for there is no doubt that the Human Eye is one 


A Rational and Humane Science 

of the most highly specialised objects in creation. 
Helmholtz, as you know, is said to have remarked 
concerning it that if an Optician had sent him an 
instrument so defective he should have returned 
it with his compliments. Helmholtz was a great 
man, and I will not do him the injustice to suppose 
that he did not know what he was saying. He 
knew that, regarded as a machine for focussing 
rays of light, the eye was decidedly defective ; 
but then he knew well enough, doubtless, zvhy 
it was defective — namely, because it is by no 
means merely such a machine, but a great deal 

The Eye, in fact, not only fulfils the action of 
focussing rays of light — like an Opera Glass or 
a Telescope — but it might be compared to another 
instrument, a Photographic Camera, in respect 
of the fact that it forms a picture of the outer world 
which it throws on a sensitive plate at the back 
— the Retina. But then, again, it is unlike any 
of these " machines," in the fact that it was never 
made by any Optician, human or divine, for any 
one definite purpose. On the contrary, as we 
know, it has grown, it has evolved ; it has come 
down to us over the centuries, and over thousands 
and thousands of centuries, from dim beginnings 
in the lowliest organisms who first conceived the 
faculty of Sight, continually modified, continually 
shapen by small increments in various directions, 
in accordance with the myriad needs of a myriad 
creatures, living, some of them in water, some 
of them in air, requiring some of them to see at 

225 p 

Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

close quarters, some at great distances, some by 
one kind of light, some by another, and so forth. 
So that to-day it not only contains a great range 
of inherited, yet latent, faculties, but it is actually, 
in its complex structure, an epitome and partial 
record of its own extraordinary history. 

As an instance of this last point, let me remind 
you that Sight was originally a differentiation of 
Touch. The light, the shadows, falling on the 
sensitive general surface of a primitive organism 
provoke a tactile irritation. In the course of evolu- 
tion this sense specialises itself at some point of 
the surface into what we call Sight. Now, to-day, 
when the little picture formed by the fore-part 
of the Human Eye falls upon the Retina at the 
back, it falls upon a screen formed by the myriad 
congregated finger-tips, so to speak, of the optic 
nerve — the rods and cones, so-called — which cover 
like a mosaic the whole ground of the Retina, and 
jeel with their sensitive points the images of the 
objects in the outer world. And so Sight is still 
Touch — it is the power of feeling or touching at 
a distance — as one sometimes in fact becomes 
aware in looking at things. 

But then again on and beyond all these things 
— beyond the focussing and photographing of 
rays, beyond the latent adaptations to the needs 
of innumerable creatures, and the epitomising of 
ages of evolution — the Human Eye has faculties 
even more far-reaching perhaps and wonderful. 
It is the marvellous organ of human Expression. 
By the dilatations and contractions of the iris, by 



A Rational and Humane Science 

the altering convexities of the lens and the eye- 
ball, and in a hundred other ways, it manages 
somehow to convey intelligence of Command, 
Control, Power, of Pity, Love, Sympathy, and all 
those myriad emotions which flit through the 
human mind — an endless series — a perfect encyclo- 
paedia. It is difficult even to imagine the eye 
without this power of language. And what other 
functions it may have it is not necessary to inquire. 
Highly specialised though it is, it is already 
obvious enough that to call it a Machine for 
focussing rays of light is monstrously and ludi- 
crously inadequate — even as it would be to call 
the Heart (the very centre of emotion and life, 
and the symbol of human love and courage) a 
common Pump. 

Nature is an infinitude, and can at no point be 
circumscribed by the human intellect. Nor ob- 
viously is there any sense in taking one little portion 
of Nature and isolating it from the rest, and then 
describing it exhaustively as if it really were so iso- 
lated. A thousand mechanicians will agree, as 
I have said, in their description of a machine, 
because in fact they will agree to view the machine 
just in the one aspect of its particular action ; 
but ask a thousand people to describe one and the 
same face — or, better still, get a thousand por- 
trait-painters, skilled in their art, to paint portraits 
of the same face — and you know perfectly well 
that all the likenesses will be different. And why 
will they be different } Simply because every face, 
however rude, has infinite sides, infinite aspects, 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

and each painter selects what he paints from his 
own point of view. And the same is true of every 
object and process in Nature. 

Then if these things are true (you ask again) how 
is it that scientific men do arrive at definite con- 
clusions, and do agree with each other so far as 
they do ? 

It is, and obviously must be, by the method of 
isolation ; by the method of selecting certain aspects 
of the problems presented to them, and ignoring 
others. For since all the relations of any pheno- 
menon of Nature cannot possibly be compassed, 
the only way must be to ignore some and concentrate 
attention on others ; and when there is a kind of 
tacit agreement as to which aspects shall be passed 
over and which considered, there is naturally an 
agreement in the results. Thus by this method, 
waiving all other aspects of the problem, the 
Eye may be described and defined as an optical 
instrument, the Heart as a common Pump, and 
the Solar System as a neat illustration of certain 
mechanical laws discovered by Galileo and 

On the subject of the Solar System and Astron- 
omy I will dwell for a few moments, as here — in 
this great example of the perfection of Modern 
Science — we have again a case apparently most 
adverse to my contention. The generalisations 
by v/hich Newton established the nature of the 
planetary orbits has been a wonder to succeeding 
generations ; the positions of the planets can 
be foretold, eclipses can be calculated with 


A Rational and Humane Science 

amazing accuracy. Yet every tyro in Mathe- 
matics knows that the equations which give these 
results can only be solved by what is called 
" neglecting small quantities " — that is, the prob- 
lems cannot be solved in their entirety, but by 
leaving out certain terms and elements, which do 
not appear important, a solution can be approached. 
And naturally it has been an important point to 
show that these small quantities may be safely 
neglected. In the case, for instance, of the orbits 
of the planets round the sun, and of the moon 
round the earth, it was for a long time taken as 
proved that the small variations in the shape and 
position of each elliptic orbit would never be 
accompanied by any permanent increase or dimi- 
nution in its size — that is, that the mean distances 
of the planets from the sun, and of the moon from 
the earth, would always remain within certain 
limits. Of late years however Professor George 
Darwin, taking up one of these poor little neglected 
quantities in the theory of the moon, found that 
it indicated after all very vast and very permanent, 
though of course very slow, changes in her mean 
distance from the earth ; so that now it appears 
probable that the Moon's true orbit, instead of being 
a limited ellipse, is a continually though gradually 
enlarging Spiral, which may some day carry the 
Moon to a great distance from the earth. If an 
eclipse were calculated for twenty years in advance 
on the Elliptic theory or the Spiral theory, it would 
probably — so slow would be the divergence — make 
no perceptible difference ; but in a hundred 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

centuries the two theories would lead to results 
utterly different. 

Thus the certitude of Astronomy as a Science 
arises largely from the fact that our times are so 
brief compared with Celestial periods. The 
proper periods of Celestial changes are to be 
reckoned by thousands, perhaps millions, of years ; 
but we, ignoring that aspect of the problem, fix 
our observations on one little point of time, and 
are quite satisfied with the result ! 

As another illustration of my meaning, consider 
the Fixed Stars, so-called. These stars in their 
groups and clusters, which we know so well by 
sight, have remained apparently in the very same, 
or nearly the same, relative positions during all 
the 2,000 or 3,000 years that we have any record 
of the shapes of the Constellations. Yet now by 
minute telescopic and spectroscopic examination 
we know that they are moving, and have been 
moving all the time, in various differing directions 
with great velocities, amounting to miles per second, 
Nevertheless, so great are the spaces concerned, 
so great the times, that all this long period has 
not sufficed to bring them into any greatly changed 
attitude with regard to each other ! What would 
you think of an intelligent foreigner who, coming 
to England to study the game of cricket, remained 
on the cricket field for a quarter of a minute — 
during which time the players would have hardly 
changed their positions — and having noted a few 
points, went away and wrote a volume on the 
kws of the game } And what are we to think of 


A Rational and Humane Science 

poor little Man who, having noted the stars for 
a few centuries, is so sure that he understands 
their movements, and that he is versed in all the 
" ordinances of heaven." 

Thus it would appear that every Nature-problem 
is so enormously complex that it can only be got at 
by what we have called the Method of Ignorance. 
Let us take a practical Science problem like that 
of Vaccination. The question here, put in its 
simplest terms, seems to be. Whether Vaccination, 
with calf or human lymph, prevents or alleviates 
Smallpox ; and if it does, whether it does so without 
engendering other evils at least as great. At 
first sight this may appear to you a very simple 
question, and easy to solve ; but the moment you 
come to think about it, you see its extreme com- 
plexity. In the first place, it is obvious that in 
a question like this, individual cases afford no 
test. It is obvious that the fact that A. is vacci^ 
nated and has not taken small-pox proves nothing, 
for there is nothing to show that he would have 
taken it if he had not been vaccinated. And 
when you have got people vaccinated by the hundred 
and the thousand, you still are not certain ; for 
these people may belong to a certain class, or a 
certain locality, or may have certain habits and 
conditions of life, which may account for their 
comparative immunity, and these causes must 
be eliminated before any definite conclusion can 
be reached. Thus it is not till the great mass 
of the population is vaccinated that we can expect 
reliable statistics. But the introduction of a praq^ 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

tice of this kind on so great a scale necessarily 
takes a long period of years, and meanwhile 
changes are taking place in the habits of the 
people, Sanitation is being improved, customs 
of Diet are altering, possibly (as so often happens 
in the history of an epidemic) the disease, having 
run its course, is beginning spontaneously to decline. 
And thus another series of possible causes has 
to be discussed. 

Then, supposing the question, notwithstanding 
all these difficulties, to be so far settled in favour 
of the present system — there still arises that 
whole other series of difficulties with regard to 
the possibility of the spread of other diseases by 
the practice, and with regard to the extent of such 
spread, before we can arrive at any finale. This 
series of questions is almost as complex as the 
other ; and it includes that great element of 
uncertainty — the question what interval of time 
may elapse between inoculation with a disease 
and its actual appearance. For if in several 
cases children break out with erysipelas immedi- 
ately after vaccination, of course there is a certain 
presumption that vaccination has been the cause ; 
but if the erysipelas only appears some years 
after, its connection with the operation may, though 
real, be impossible to trace. 

The matter standing thus, it seems to us almost 
a mystery how it was that the medical authorities 
of the early days of Jennerism were so cocksure 
of their conclusions — until we remember that 
in arriving at those conclusions they practically 


A Rational and Humane Science 

ignored all these other points that I have mentioned, 
like changes of Sanitation, spontaneous decline 
of Small-pox, the spread of other diseases, etc., 
and simply limited themselves to one small aspect 
of the problem. But now, after this interval of 
time, when the neglected facts and aspects have 
meanwhile forced themselves on our attention, how 
remarkable is the change of attitude as evidenced 
by the finding of the late Royal Commission I 

From all this do not understand me to deride 
Science — for I have no intention of doing that ; 
on the contrary, I think the debt we owe to modern 
investigation quite incalculable ; but I only wish 
to warn you how complex all these problems 
are, how impossible that notion of settling even 
one of them by a cut-and-dried intellectual 

But you will ask (for this is the second point 
I mentioned some little time back) hozv people's 
emotions and feelings come in to colour their 
scientific conclusions } And the answer is — very 
simply, namely by directing their choice as to 
what aspects of the problem they will ignore and 
what aspects they will envisage ; by determining 
their point of view, in fact. To return to that 
illustration of several portrait-painters painting 
the same face ; just as each painter is led by his 
feeling, his sympathies, his general temperament, 
to select certain points in the face and to pass over 
others, so each group of scientific men in each 
generation is led by its sympathies, its idiosyn- 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

crasies, to envisage certain aspects of the problems 
of the day and to ignore others. 

The whole history of Science illustrates this. 
We are all familiar with the way in which the 
predilections of religious feeling in the time of 
Copernicus and Galileo retarded the progress 
of astronomical Science. As long as people 
believed that a divine drama of redemption had 
been enacted on this earth alone, they naturally 
concluded that this earth was the centre of the 
universe, and refused to look at facts which con- 
tradicted their conclusion. When Galileo turned 
his newly-made telescope on Jupiter and saw it 
circled by its satellites, he saw in this an image 
of the Copernican system and of the planets circling 
round the central Sun ; but when he asked others 
to share his observation and his inference, they 
would not. " O, my dear Kepler," he writes in 
a letter to his fellow astronomer, " how I wish we 
could have one hearty laugh together. Here at 
Padua is the principal Professor of Philosophy, 
whom I have repeatedly and urgently requested 
to look at the moon and planets through my glass ; 
but he pertinaciously refuses to do so. What 
shouts of laughter we should have at this glorious 
folly ! " 

And though we laugh at the folly of those before 
us, we do the same things ourselves to-day. Take 
the science of Political Economy. A revolution 
has taken place in that, almost comparable to the 
change from the geocentric to the heliocentric 
view in Astronomy. During the distinctively 

A Rational and Humane Science 

commercial period of the last loo years, the leading 
students of social science, being themselves filled 
with the spirit of the time, have been fain to look 
upon the acquisition of private wealth as the one 
absorbing motive of human nature ; and so it 
has come about that the economists, from Adam 
Smith to John Stuart Mill, have founded their 
science on self-seeking and competition, as the 
base of their analysis. To-day another series 
of economists coming to the front — their minds 
preoccupied with the great facts of Community 
of life and Co-operation — have discovered that 
Society is in the main an illustration of these 
latter principles, and have evolved a quite new 
phase of the science. It is not that Society has 
changed so much during this period, as that the 
altered point of view of the students of Society 
has caused them simply to fix their attention on 
a different aspect of the problem and a different 
range of facts. 

I have alluded already to the way in which 
the prevalent use of Machinery in practical life 
has affected our mental outlook on the world. 
It is curious that during this mechanical age of 
the last lOO years or so, we have not only come to 
regard Society in a mechanical light, as a concourse 
of separate individuals bound together by a mere 
cash-nexus, but have extended the same idea 
to the universe at large, which we look upon 
as a concourse of separate atoms, associated to- 
gether by gravitation, or possibly by mere mutual 
impact. Yet it is certain that both these views 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

are false, since the individuals who compose 
Society are not separate from each other ; and 
the theory that the universe, in its ultimate analysis, 
is composed of a vast number of discrete atoms 
is simply unthinkable. 

When we come to a practical and modern ques- 
tion like Medicine, the influence of the spirit in 
which it is approached on the course of the science 
is very easy to see. For if the science of Medicine 
is approached (as it perhaps mostly is to-day) 
in a spirit of combined Fear and Self-indulgence 
— fear for one's own personal safety, combined 
with a kind of anxiety to continue living in the 
indulgence of habits known to be unhealthy — 
if it is approached in this uncomfortable and 
contradictory state of mind, it is pretty obvious 
that its course will be similarly uncomfortable : 
that it will consist for the most part in a search for 
drugs which shall, without effort on our part, 
palliate the effects of our misconduct ; in the 
discovery, as in a kind of nightmare, that the air 
round us is full of billions of microbes ; in a terri- 
fied study of these messengers of disease, and in 
a frantic effort to ward them off by inoculations, 
vaccinations, vivisections, and so forth, without 

If, on the other hand, the science is approached 
from quite a different side — from that of the 
love of Health, and the desire to make life lovely, 
beautiful and clean ; if the student is filled not 
only with this, but with a great belief in the essential 
power of Man, and his command in creation, to 


A Rational and Humane Science 

control not only all these little microbes whose 
name is Legion, but through his mind all the 
processes of his body ; then it is obvious enough 
that a whole series of different facts will arise 
before his eyes and become the subject of his 
study — facts of sanitation, of the laws of cleanly 
life, diet, clothing and so forth, methods of control, 
and the details and practice of the influence of 
the mental upon the physical part of man — 
facts quite equally real with the others, equally 
important, equally numerous perhaps and com- 
plex, but forming a totally different range of 

In conclusion, you begin to see doubtless that 
I do not believe in a science of mere Formulas, 
which can be poured from one brain to another 
like water in a pot. I believe in something more 
organic to Humanity — which shall combine Sense, 
Intellect and Soul ; which shall include the keenest 
training of the Senses, the exactest use of the 
Brain, and the subordination of both of these to 
the finest and most generous attitude of Man 
towards Nature. 

To come to quite practical aspects, I think that 
Physical Science, and for that matter Natural 
History too, ought to be founded on the closest 
observation and actual intimacy with Nature. 
It is notorious that in many respects the per- 
ceptions, the Nature-intuitions, of savage races 
far outdo those of civilised man. We have let 
that side go slack, and too often the man of science 
when he comes out of his study is a mere baby 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

in the external world. I look back with a kind 
of shame when I think that I studied the mathema- 
tical side of Astronomy for three or four years 
at Cambridge and absolutely at the time hardly 
knew one star from another in the sky. But 
such are the methods of teaching that have been 
in use. They ought however to be reversed, 
and practical acquaintance with the facts should 
come a long way first, and then be succeeded by 
inductive and deductive reasoning when the diffi- 
culties of the subject have forced themselves on 
the student's mind. 

Then in Natural History and Botany I think 
that we have hitherto not only neglected the 
perceptive side, but also what may be called the 
intuitive and emotional aspects. If any one will 
attend to the subject, I believe they will perceive 
that there are dormant in the mind the finest in- 
tuitions and instincts of relationship to the various 
animals and plants — intuitions which have played 
a far more important part in the life of barbaric 
races than they do to-day. ^ Primitive peoples 
have a remarkable instinct of the medicinal and 
dietetic uses of herbs and plants — an instinct 
which we also find well developed among animals 
— and I believe that this kind of knowledge would 
grow largely if, so to speak, it were given a chance. 

' Elisee Reclus, in his remarkable paper, La Grande Famille, 
points out the wide-reaching Friendship, and free alliance for 
various purposes, of primitive man with the animals, existing 
long before the so-called " domestication " of the latter. See 
Humane Reviezv, January, 1906. 


A Rational and Humane Science 

The formal classification of animals and plants 
— which now forms the main part of these 
sciences — would then come in simply as an aid 
and an auxiliary to the more direct and human 

Again, let us take the science of Physiology. 
At present this is mainly carried on by means 
of Dissection or Vivisection. But both these 
methods are unsatisfactory. Dissection, because 
it amounts to studying the organisation of a 
living creature by the examination of its dead 
carcase ; and Vivisection, because it is not only 
open to a similar objection, but because it necessarily 
violates the highest relation of man to the animal 
he is studying. There is, I believe, another 
method — a method which has been known in the 
East for centuries, though little regarded in the 
West — which may perhaps be called the method 
of Health. It consists in rendering the body, 
by proper habits of life, pure and healthy, till 
it becomes, as it were, transparent to the inner 
eye, and then projecting the consciousness inward 
so as to become almost as sensible of the structure 
and function of the various internal organs, as 
it usually is of the outer surface of the body. Of 
course this is a process which cannot be effectu- 
ated at once, and which may need help and cor- 
roboration by external methods of study, but I 
believe it is one which will lead to considerable 
results. There is no doubt that many of the 
Yogis of India attain to great skill in it. 

Similarly, from what we have already said 

Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

about Political Economy, it is obvious that satis- 
factory results in that science must depend im- 
mensely on the high degree of social instinct and 
feeling with which the student approaches it, 
and on the thoroughness of his acquaintance with 
the actual life of a people ; and that the develop- 
ment of these factors is fully as important a 
part of the science as that which consists in the 
logical ordering and arrangement of the material 

I need not, I think, go any further into detail 
of new methods in each Science. You remem- 
ber what I said at the beginning about the Cell 
studying the Body of which it formed a part. We 
may imagine, if we like, three stages in this process. 
In the first stage the Cell regards the other cells 
and the Body simply from the point of view of 
how they affect //, and its comfort and safety. 
This might be taken to correspond to the Old- 
time Science. In the second stage the Cell, with 
its tiny experience of the other cells and the small 
part of the body in which it is placed, becomes 
highly intellectual, and professes to lay down the 
laws of the structure of the body generally. This 
corresponds to the attitude of Modern Science. 
In the third stage the Cell, growing and evolving, 
and coming daily into closer sympathetic relation- 
ship with all parts of the body, begins to find its 
true relation to the other cells, not to use them^ 
but to fulfil its part in the whole. Gradually 
drawing all the threads together and coming 
more and more, so to say, into a central position, 


A Rational and Humane Science 

it at last in its little brain spontaneously and in- 
evitably reflects the whole, and becomes the mirror 
of it. This would answer to what we have called 
a really rational and humane Science. 

Man has to find and to feel his true relation to 
other creatures and to the whole of which he is 
a part, and has to use his brain to further this. 
Science zV, as we all know, the search for Unity. 
That is its ideal. It unites innumerable pheno- 
mena under one law ; and then it unites many 
laws under one higher ; always seeking for the 
ultimate complete integration. But (is it not 
obvious ?) Man cannot find that unity oj the 
Whole until he feels his unity with the Whole. 
To found a Science of one-ness on the murderous 
Warfare and insane Competition of men with each 
other, and on the Slaughter and Vivisection of 
animals — the search for unity on the practice of 
disunity — is an absurdity, which can only in the 
long run reveal itself as such. 

I do not know whether it seems obvious to 
you, but it does to me, that Man will never find 
in theory the unity of outer Nature till he reaches 
in practice the unity of his own. When he has 
learnt to harmonise in himself all his powers, 
bodily and mental, his desires, faculties, needs, 
and bring them into perfect co-operation — when 
he has found the true hierarchy of himself — 
then somehow I think that Nature round him 
will reflect this order, and range itself in clear 
and intelligible harmony about him. 

But I can say no more. I have dragged you 

241 Q 

Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

by the neck, as it were, through a recondite and 
difficult subject ; and even so I do not feel that 
I have by any means done justice to it. But it is 
possible, perhaps, that I have cast the germ of an 
idea among you, which, if you think over it at 
leisure, may develop into something of value. 

7 yz 


THE tendency of the Evolution Theory, 
as it penetrates human thought, is to rub 
out lines — the old lines of formal classi- 
fication. We no longer now put in a class apart 
those animals which have horns or cloven hooves, 
because we find that continuous descent and close 
kinship weave relations which are not bounded 
by horns or hooves. And, for a not dissimilar 
reason, modern thought, based on the theory 
of evolution, is tending to rub out the hard and 
fast lines between moral Right and Wrong — the 
old formal classifications of actions as some in their 
nature good, and some in their nature bad. 

The Eastern, or at least Indian, thought and 
religion rubbed out these lines long ago. Its 
philosophy indeed was founded on a theory 
of Evolution — the continuous evolution or 
emanation of the Many from the One. It 
could not therefore regard any class of beings 
or creatures as essentially bad, or any class of 
actions as essentially wrong, since all sprang 
from a common Root. The only essential evil 
was ignorance (avidya) — that is, the fact of the 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

being or creature not knowing or perceiving its 
emanation from, or kinship with, the One — 
and of course any action done under this condi- 
tion of avidya^ however outwardly correct, was 
essentially wrong ; while on the other hand all 
actions done by beings fully realising and con- 
scious of their union with the One were necessarily 

Of this attitude towards Right and Wrong 
there are abundant instances in the Upanishads. 
The choice of the path does not lie between Good 
and Bad, as in the Pilgrim s Progress^ but it lies 
above and in a region transcending them both. 
" By the serenity of his thoughts a man blots 
out all actions, whether good or bad.''^ " He 
does not distress himself with the thought, Why 
did I not do what is good ? Why did I do what 
is bad ? " 2 All religions indeed, by the very 
fact of their being religions, have indicated a 
sphere above morality, to which their followers 
shall and must aspire. What else is St. Paul's 
reiterated charge to escape from the dominion of 
sin and law, into the glorious liberty of the chil- 
dren of God ? And in all ages the great mystics 
— those who stand near the fountain-sources of 
evolution and emanation — have seen and said the 
same. Says Spinoza : — " With regard to good 
and evil, these terms indicate nothing positive 
in things considered in themselves, nor are they 
anything else than modes of thought, or notions 

I Mattra-jana-Brahmana-lJpanishad, vi. 34, 4. 
* Taittiriyaka-Up, ii. 9, etc. 

The New Morality 

which we form from the comparison of one thing 
with another. For one and the same thing may 
at the same time be both good and evil, or in- 
different." I 

Here indeed, in these pregnant words, we 
come upon the very root of the matter. A thing, 
an action, may be called good or bad in respect to 
a certain purpose or object ; but in itself, No. 
Wine may be good for the encouragement of 
sociability, but may be bad for the liver. The 
Sabbath-day may be pronounced a beneficial 
institution from some points of view, but not from 
others. A scrupulous respect for private property 
may certainly be a help to settled social life ; but 
the practice of thieving — as recommended by 
Plato — may be very useful to check the lust of 
private riches. To speak of wine as in its nature 
good or bad is manifestly absurd ; and the same 
of a pious respect for private property or the 
Sabbath-day. These things are good under 
certain conditions or for certain purposes, and 
bad under other conditions or for other purposes. 
But of course it belongs and goes with the brute 
externalising tendency of the mind, to stereotype 
the actual material thing — which should be only 
the vehicle of the spirit — and give /'/ a character 
and a cult as good or bad. The Sabbath ceases 
to be made for man, and man is made for the 
Sabbath. Law, Custom, Pharisaism, and Self- 
righteousness spring up and usurp the sphere 
of morality, and all the histories of savage 

I Spinoza's Etkic, part iv. 

Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

and civilised nations, with their endless fetishes 
and taboos and superstitions and ceremonies, and 
caste-marks and phylacteries, and petty regulations 
and proprieties, — including bitter scorn and per- 
secution of those who do not fulfil them, — are 
but illustrations of this process. 

All the prophets and saviours of the world have 
been for the Spirit as against the letter — and the 
teachings of all religions have in their turn become 
literalised and fossilised 1 Perhaps there has been 
no greater anti-literal than Jesus of Nazareth, 
and yet perhaps no religion has become more a 
thing of forms and dogmas than that which passes 
under his name. Even his counsels of Gentle- 
ness and Love — which one would indeed have 
thought might escape this process — have been 
corrupted into mere prescriptions of morality, 
such as those of Non-resistance, and of philan- 
thropic Altruism. 

It seems strange indeed that so great a man 
as Tolstoy should have lent himself to this process 
— to the pinning down of the excellent spirit of 
Christ (who by the way was man enough to 
drive the money-changers out of the Temple) 
to a mere formula, as one might pin a dragon-fly 
to a labelled card — TJiou shall not use Violence : 
thou shalt not Resist ! And all the while to cleave 
to a formula only means to admit the evil in some 
other shape which the formula does not meet 
— to forswear the stick only means to resort to 
rebuke and sarcasm in self-defence, which may 
inflict more pain and a deeper scar, and in some 


The New Morality 

cases more injury, than the stick ; or if self- 
defence in any shape is quite forsworn then that 
only means to resign and abandon one's place in 
the world completely. 

And the same of the somev/hat spooney Altruism, 
which was at one time much recommended as the 
maxim of conduct. For all the while it is notorious 
that the specially altruistic people are as a rule 
painfully dull and uninteresting, and afford far 
less life and charm to those around them than many 
who are frankly egotistic ; and so by following 
a formula of Altruism it seems they wreck the very 
work they set before themselves to do — namely, 
that of making the world brighter! 

Against these weaknesses of Christianity 
Nietzsche was a healthy reaction. It was he 
insisted on the terms " good " and " bad " being 
restored to their proper use, as terms of relation — 
*' good " for what ? " bad " for what ? But his re- 
action against maudlin altruism and non-resistance 
led him towards a pitfall in the opposite direction, 
towards the erection of the worship of Force 
almost into a formula. Thou s/iaU use Violence, 
thou shaU Resist. His contempt for the feeble 
and the spooney and the knock-kneed and the 
humbug is very delightful and entertaining, and, 
as I say, healthy in the sense of reaction ; but 
one does not get a very clear idea what the strength 
which Nietzsche glorifies is for, or whither it is 
going to lead. His blonde beasts and his laugh- 
ing lions may represent the Will to Power ; but 
Nietzsche seems to have felt, himself, that this 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

latter alone would not suffice, and so he passed 
on to his discovery or invention of the Beyond- 
man, — i.e. of a childlike being who, without argu- 
ment, affirms and creates, and before whom institu- 
tions and conventions dissolve, as it were of their 
own accord. I This was a stroke of genius ; but 
even so it leaves doubtful what the relation of 
such Beyond-men to each other may be, and 
whether, if they have no common source of life, 
their actions will not utterly cancel and destroy 
each other. 

The truth is that Nietzsche never really pene- 
trated to the realisation of that farther state of 
consciousness in which the deep underlying unity 
of man with Nature and his fellows is perceived 
and felt. He saw apparently that there is a life 
and an inspiration of life beyond all technical 
good and evil. But for some reason — partly 
because of the natural difficulty of the subject, 
partly perhaps because the Eastern outlook was 
uncongenial to his mind — he never found the 
solution which he needed ; and his outline of 
the Superman remains cloudy and uncertain, 
vague and variously interpreted by followers and 

The question arises. What do we need ? We 
are to-day, in this matter, in a somewhat parlous 
state. The old codes of Morality are moribund ; 
the Ten Commandments command only a very 

' It must be remembered that Nietzsche supposes three stages 
of the spirit — (i) the Camel, (2) the Lion, and (3) the Child. 
And the Beyond-man properly corresponds to the last stage, 


The New Morality 

qualified assent ; the Christian religion as a real 
inspiration of practical life and conduct is dead ; 
the social conventions and Mrs. Grundy remain, 
feebly galling and officious. What are we to 
do ? Are we to bolster up the old codes, in 
which we have largely ceased to believe, merely 
in order to have a code ? — or are we to let 
them go ? 

Of course, if we have decided what the final 
purpose or life of Man is, then we may say that 
what is good for that purpose is finally " good," 
and what is bad for that purpose is finally " evil." 
The Eastern philosophy, as I have said, deciding 
that the final purpose of Man is identification with 
Brahm, declares a// actions to be evil (even the 
most saintly) which are done by the self as separate 
from Brahm ; and all actions as good which are 
done in the condition of vidya or conscious union. 
But here, though a final good and evil are allowed 
and acknowledged, as existing respectively in 
the conditions of vidya or avidya, those condi- 
tions altogether escape any external rule or classi- 

Mr. Gilbert Chesterton, taking up this subject 
not long ago in a criticism ^ of Mr. Orage's little 
book on Nietzsche, said that all this talk about 
** beyond good and evil " was nonsense ; that 
we must have some code ; and that in effect, any 
code, even a bad one, was better than none. And 
one sees what he means. It is perfectly true, 
in a sense, that the harness, the shafts, and the 
^ Dai/y News, December 29, 1906. 

Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

blinkers keep a large part of the world on the 
beaten road and out of the ditch, and that 
folk are alv/ays to be found who, rather than 
use their higher faculties, will rely on these 
external guides ; but to encourage this kind of 
salvation by blinkers seems the very reverse 
of what ought to be done ; and one might even 
ask whether salvation by such means is sal- 
vation at all — whether the ditch were not 
better 1 

Besides, what can we do ? It is not so much 
that we are deliberately abandoning the codes 
as that they are abandoning us. With the gradual 
infiltration of new ideas, of Eastern thought, of 
Darwinian philosophy, of customs and creeds of 
races other than our own, with Bernard Shaw 
lecturing on the futility of the Ten Command- 
ments, and so forth, it is not difficult to see that 
in a short while it will be impossible to rehabilitate 
any of the ancient codes or to give them a sanction 
and a sense of awe in the public mind. If with 
Gilbert Chesterton we should succeed in bolster- 
ing up such a thing for a time — well, it will 
only be for a time. 

And the question is, whether the time has not 
really come for us to stand up — like sensible men 
and women — and do without rules ; whether we 
cannot trust ourselves at last to throw aside the 
blinkers. The question is whether we cannot 
realise that solid and central life which underlies 
and yet surpasses all rules. For truly, if we cannot 
do this, our state is pitiable — having ceased to 


The New Morality- 
believe in the letter of Morality, and yet unable to 
find its spirit ! 

It is here, then, that the New Morality comes 
in, as more or less clearly understood and ex- 
pressed by the progressive sections to-day. Modern 
Socialism, in effect, taking up a position in its way 
somewhat similar to that of Eastern philosophy, 
says : Morality in its essence is not a code, but 
simply the realisation of the Common Life ; ^ 
and that is a thing which is not foreign and alien 
to humanity, but very germane and natural to it — 
a thing so natural that without doubt it would be 
more in evidence than it is, did not the institu- 
tions and teachings of Western civilisation tend 
all along to deny and disguise it. To liberate 
this instinct of the Common Life, freeing it from 
hard and cramping rules, and to let it take its own 
form or forms — grafted on and varied of course 
by the personal and selective element of Affection 
and Sympathy — is the hope that lies before the 
world to-day for the solution of all sorts of moral 
and social problems. 

And the more this position is thought over, 
the more, I believe, will it commend itself. The 
sense of organic unity, of the common welfare, the 
instinct of Humanity, or of general helpfulness, 
are things which run in all directions through the 
very fibre of our individual and social life — just 
as they do through that of the gregarious animals. 

I I need hardly say that this does not mean, as Nietzsche so 
often and sardonically suggests, the realisation of the coT/imon-p/ace 
life, but something very different. 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

In a thousand ways : through heredity and the 
fact that common ancestral blood flows in our 
veins — though we be only strangers that pass 
in the street ; through psychology, and the 
similarity of structure and concatenation in our 
minds ; through social linkage, and the necessity 
of each and all to the others' economic welfare ; 
through personal affection and the ties of the 
heart ; and through the mystic and religious 
sense which, diving deep below personalities, 
perceives the vast flood of universal being — in 
these and many other ways does this Common 
Life compel us to recognise itself as a fact — per- 
haps the most fundamental fact of existence. 

To teach this simple foundational fact and 
what flows from it to every child — not only as 
a theory, but as a practical habit and inspiration 
of conduct — is not really difficult, but easy. Chil- 
dren, having this sense woven into their very being, 
grow up in the spirit and practical habitude of 
it, and from the beginning possess the inspira- 
tion of what we call Morality — far more effectu- 
ally indeed than copy-book maxims can provide. 
Respect for truth, consideration towards parents 
and elders, respect for the reasonable properties, 
dignities, conveniences of others, as well as for 
one's own needs and dignities, become perfectly 
natural and habitual. And that this is no mere 
hypothesis the example of Japan has lately shown 
where every young thing is brought up so far 
drenched in the sentiment of community that 
to give one's life for one's country is looked upon 



The New Morality 

as a privilege. I The general lines, I say, of 
morality would be secure, and much more secure 
than they now are, if we could only bring the 
children up in an educational and practical at- 
mosphere of that solidarity which as a matter of 
fact is demanded to-day by socialism and the 
economic movement generally. 

And on this ground-work, as I have hinted, 
Personal Affection and Sympathy would build 
a superstructure of their own ; they would outline 
a society as much more beautiful, powerful and 
closely knit than the present one founded on the 
Cash-nexus, as, say, the Athenian society of the 
time of Pericles was superior to that of the 
Lapithae who first bitted and bridled the horse. 

While the general Life, equal, pervasive, and 
in a sense undifferentiated, is a great fact which 
has to be acknowledged ; so this personal Love 
and Affection, choosing, selecting, and giving 
outline and form to that life, is equally a fact, 
equally undeniable, equally sacred — and one 
which has to be taken in conjunction with the 

I say equally sacred : because there has been 
a tendency (no doubt due to certain causes) to 
look upon personal affection, in its various phases 
from slight inclinations of sympathy to the stronger 
compulsions of passion, as something rather dubi- 

* Many Japanese committed suicide on account of not being 
allowed to join in the Russian War. See also Lafcadio Hearn's 
description of the habitual dignity and courtesy of the youth of 
Japan, — Life and Letters, vol. i, pp. 12, 113. 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

ous in character, at best an amiable weakness not 
to be encouraged. Tolstoy, in one of his writings, 
figures the case of a little household in days of 
famine not really having bread enough for their 
own wants. Then a stranger child comes to the 
door and pleads for food. Tolstoy suggests that 
the mother ought to take the scanty crust from 
her own child to feed the stranger withal, or at 
least to share the food equally between the two 
children. But such a conclusion seems to me 

Whatever ** ought " may mean in such a 
connexion, we know pretty well that such never 
will be the rule of human life, we may almost 
say never can be ; perhaps we should be equally 
justified in saying, never " ought " to be. For 
obviously there must be preferences, selections. 
Our affections, our affinities, our sympathies, 
our passions, are not given us for nothing. It 
is not for nothing that every individual person, 
every tree, every animal has a shape^ a shape of 
its own. If it were not so the world would be 
infinitely, inconceivably, dull. Yet to ask that a 
mother should in all cases treat strange children 
exactly the same as her own, that a man from the 
oceanic multitude should single out no special 
or privileged friends, but should love all alike, 
is to ask that these folk in their mental and moral 
nature should become as jellyfish — of no distinct 
shape or satisfaction to themselves or any one 
else. Profound and indispensable as is the Law 
of Equality — the law, namely, that there is a 


The New Morality 

region within all beings where they touch to 
a common and equal life — the other law, that 
of Individual predilection, is equally indispensable. 
Try to reduce all to the one motive of the general 
interest, and you might have a perfect morality, 
but a morality woodeny, hard and dull, without 
form and feature. Try to dispense with this, 
and to found society on individual affection and 
love, and on individual initiative, without morals, 
and you would have a flighty, unstable thing, 
without consistency or backbone. 

My contention, then, is that our hope for the 
future society lies in its embodiment of these 
two great principles jointly : (i) the recognition 
of the Common Life as providing the foundation- 
element of general morality, and (2) the recogni- 
tion of Individual Affection and Expression — 
and to a much greater degree than hitherto — as 
building up the higher groupings and finer forms 
of the structure. And in proportion as (i) pro- 
vides a solider basis of morals than we have hitherto 
had, so will it be possible to give to (2) a width 
of scope and freedom of action hitherto untried 
or untrusted. Conjointly with the strengthening 
of these principles of Solidarity and Affection 
in society must of course come the strengthening 
of Individuality — the right and the desire of every 
being to preserve and develop its own proper 
shape^ and so to add to the richness and interest 
of life — and this involves the right of Resistance, 
and (once more) the relegation of the formula of 
non-resistance into the background. 

Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure ' 

These considerations, however, are leading us 
too far afield, and away from the special subject 
of our paper. I mention them chiefly in order 
to show that while wc are considering Morality 
as a foundation-element of Society, it must never 
be lost sight of that it is not the only element, 
and that it would be comparatively senseless and 
useless unless grafted on and complemented and 
completed by the others. 

The method of the New Morality, then, will 
be to minimise formulae, and (except as illustra- 
tions) to use them sparely ; and to bring children 
up — and so indirectly all citizens — in such con- 
ditions of abounding life and health that their 
sympathies, overflowing naturally to those around, 
will cause them to realise in the strongest way 
their organic part in the great whole of society 
— and this not as an intellectual theory, so much 
as an abiding consciousness and foundation-fact 
of their own existence. Make this the basis 
of all teaching. Make them realise — by all sorts 
of habit and example — that to injure or deceive 
others is to injure themselves — that to help others 
somehow satisfies and fortifies their own inner 
life. Let them learn, as they grow up, to regard 
all human beings, of whatever race or class, as 
ends in themselves — never to be looked upon as 
mere things or chattels to be made use of. Let 
them also learn to look upon the animals in the 
same light — as beings, they too, who are climbing 
the great ladder of creation — beings with whom 
also we humans have a common spirit and interest, 


The New Morality 

And let them learn to respect themselves as worthy 
and indispensable members of this great Body. 
Thus will be established a true Morality — a morality 
far more searching, more considerate of others, 
more adaptive and more genuine than that of 
the present day — a morality, we may say, of 

For it may indeed be said that Morality — taking 
a downright and almost physiological view of it — 
is simply abundance of life. That is, that when a 
man has so abounding and vital an inner nature 
that his sympathies and activities overflow the 
margin of his own petty days and personal ad- 
vantage, he is by that fact entering the domain 
of morality. Before that time and while limited 
to the personal organism, the creative life in each 
being is either non-moral like that of the animals, 
or simply selfish like that of the immature man ; 
but when it overflows this limit it necessarily becomes 
social, and moves to the support and considera- 
tion of the neighbour. Having formerly found 
its complete activity in the sustentation of the 
personal self it now spreads its helpful energies 
into the lives of the other selves around. Altru- 
ism, in fact, in its healthy forms, is the overflow 
of abounding vitality. It is a morality without 
a code, and happily free fron limiting formulae.^ 

1 This morality, indeed, may be said to be implicit in much 
of the teaching of Christ ; yet, curiously enough, it has never 
been seriously adopted by the Churches. And as to the regard 
for animals as ends in themselves, the Reman Catholic Church, 
I believe, positively repudiates any such attitude, 

Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

And if it be again said that a morality of this 
kind, which rests on a principle and a mental 
attitude only, is a danger, let us pause for a mo- 
ment to consider how much more dangerous is 
one which rests on formulas. If morality with- 
out a code is a serious matter, how much more 
serious is one which is nailed up within a code ! 
For looking back on history it would sometimes 
seem that the black-and-white, the this-thing- 
right-and-that-thing-wrong morality has been the 
most wicked thing in the world. It has been 
an excuse for all the most devilish deeds 
and persecutions imaginable. A formula of the 
Sabbath-day, a formula about Witchcraft, a 
formula of Marriage (regardless of the real human 
relation), a formula concerning Theft (regardless 
of the dire need of the thief) — and burnings, 
hangings, torturings without mercy! The terrible 
thing about this Right-and- Wrong morality is 
not only that it leads to these dreadful reprisals ; 
but that it brands upon the victim as well as upon 
the oppressor the fatuous notions that a certain 
thin^j^ is right or wrong, and that what one has 
to do is to save oneself — two notions both of which 
are directly contrary to true Morality. A boy 
tells a verbal lie — perhaps through fear, perhaps 
through inadvertence. He has broken a formula 
and is immediately caned. Moral : he will 
keep to verbal truth afterwards — however mean 
or insidious it may be — and be pharisaically self- 
satisfied ; but he will never realise that the im- 
portance of truth and lies rests not in the words, 


The New Morality 

but in the confidence and mutual trust which 
they either create or destroy. The peculiarly 
English worship of Duty is open to the same 
objection. " Lilies that fester smell far worse 
than weeds," and splendid as is the conception 
and practice of Duty, as a self-oblivious inspira- 
tion and enthusiasm, it becomes a truly revolting 
thing when it takes the all-too-common form 
" I have done my Duty, I'm all right ! " "I 
am going to do my Duty, whatever becomes of 
you." Can anything be imagined more dis- 
integrating to society, more certain to split it 
up into a dustheap of self-regarding units, than 
a formula of this kind ? " It is my painful Duty 
to condemn you to be hanged by the neck until 
you are dead," says the Judge to the wretched 
girl who, in a frenzy of despair, has drowned her 
baby. What he really means is that while he 
perfectly recognises the monstrosity of the Law 
which he has sworn to administer, and the soul- 
killing effect on the girl which his sentence may 
have, yet in order to save himself from the risk or 
the wrong of breaking that Law, he is willing and 
ready to pronounce that sentence. " It is my 
duty to burn you," says the Inquisitor to the heretic ; 
and the implication is really, " I am afraid that if 
I do not burn you I shall get burnt myself, in the 
next world." 

The sooner an end can be made of this sort of 
morality, the better — which under the cloak of 
public advantage or benefit is only thinking about 
self-promotion and self-interest, either in this 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

world or the next, and which truly is calculated 
not to further human solidarity but to destroy it. 
It runs and trickles through all of modern society, 
poisoning the well-springs of affection, this morality 
which, having paid its domestic servants their 
regular wages, is quite satisfied with itself, and 
expects them to do their duty in return, but is 
silent about their real needs and welfare ; which 
treats its wage-workers as simple machines for 
the grinding out of profits, and lifts its eyebrows 
in serene surprise when they retaliate against such 
treatment ; which can only regard a criminal 
as a person who has broken a formula, and in return 
must be punished according to a formula ; and 
a pig as an animal for which you provide reason- 
able provender and a stye, and which in return 
you are entitled to eat. Pharisaical, self-centred 
and self-interested, materialistic to the last degree, 
and really senseless in its outlook, this current 
morality is indeed, and very seriously, a public 

Thou shalt not steal : an empty feat, 
When it's so lucrative to cheat. 

Keep within the code, within the letter ; always 
speak the nominal truth (whoever may suffer 
thereby) ; keep up the accepted formulae of 
marriage and the sex-relation (though hearts may 
be bleeding and perishing) ; pay every respect 
to property, and so forth ; and you may have 
the gratification of being looked upon as a bul- 
wark of society. But none the less it is probable 


The New Morality 

that you are undermining and corrupting that 
society to the core. Your outlook is merely on 
the surface, while you are condoning deep-seated 

Of course the New Morality — to look within^ 
to feel and refer to the needs of others almost 
as instinctively as to one's own, to refuse to regard 
any thing as in itself good or bad, and to look upon 
all beings, oneself included, as ends in them- 
selves and not as a means of personal self-advance- 
ment and glorification — while it is the more natural, 
is also the more difficult in a sense, as providing 
no set pattern or rule. But surely the time has 
arrived for its adoption. It is the morality which 
must underlie the freer, more varied forms of the 
society of the future ; and it is the only escape 
from the corruption of the old order. 

To take particular examples. Truth, in word 
or act, is — we all feel — very important, very 
fundamental. It is the basis of the common 
understanding of which I have spoken. It is 
the basis of the expression of oneself, and of the 
recognition of others. Any one who is deeply 
imbued with the consciousness of the common 
life will necessarily have a deep respect for the 
Truth ; he will also have a deep respect for the 
Life, the Property, the good Name, the Affec- 
tions, and so forth, of others, as well as for his 
own similar attributes. He will not be able to 
say, as a formula : I will never deceive another 
(tell a lie) ; I will never take the life of others, 
man or animal (kill) ; and so on, because he knows 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

there are situations in which that very Life arising 
within him, or even his own absolute necessity, 
will demand such actions, will compel him to 
the performance of them ; but all the same he will 
in his ordinary existence carry out the principle 
which underlies these formulas, and much more 
thoroughly, probably, than the formulas themselves 
would demand. 

Similarly about such matters as sexual morality. 
There are outcries against Lady-Godiva-shows 
and living statuary — apparently because folk are 
afraid of such things rousing the passions. No 
doubt the things may act that way. But why, 
we may ask, should people be afraid of rousing 
passions which, after all, are the great driving 
forces of human life ? Clearly it is because they 
think the other forces which should guide these 
passions or give them a helpful and useful direction 
are too weak. And in this last respect they are 
right. The guiding and inhibiting forces in our 
present society are feeble — because they consist 
only in a few conventional formulae, which are 
rapidly being undermined. We are generating 
steam in a boiler which is already cankered 
with rust. The cure is not to cut off the 
passions, or to be weakly afraid of them, but to 
find a new, sound, healthy engine of general 
morality and common-sense within which they 
will work. And this is what in the future we 
must try to do. 

This morality, this organic, vital, almost phy- 
siological morality of the common life — which 


The New Morality 

means a quick response of each unit to the needs 
of the other units, and much the same in the body 
politic as health means in the physical body — 
must underlie and be the basis of the societies 
of the future. It will mean the liberation of 
a thousand and one instincts, desires and capa- 
cities which since our childhood's days have 
lain buried within us, concealed and ignored because 
we have thought them wrong or unworthy, when 
really all they have wanted has been recognition 
and the opportunity to become healthy by 
recognition — by the process in fact of balancing 
against each other, and against opposing and com- 
plementary elements, and so finding their places 
in the Whole. On this new Morality of accept- 
ance and recognition and wide-reaching redemp- 
tion, it will be possible, as I have already said, to 
graft not only a stronger expression of indivi- 
duality all round, but also a higher and more varied 
and more gracious life of personal affection — 
which now alas ! lies like a thing wounded and 
half dead. Its establishment will, I take it, mean 
the oncoming of a society which will liberate 
personal affection and love — will liberate forces 
hitherto artificially crippled because their libera- 
tion would tear our current morality of formulae 
to mere rags and tatters. It means, I take it, 
the oncoming of a society whose main motive will 
no longer be the struggle for Bread (since that is 
ruled out by the enormous growth of our wealth- 
producing powers), but the desire for the satisfac- 
tion of the Heart — thus preparing no doubt new 


The New Morality 

and unforeseen difficulties and sufferings, yet 
filling life with such beautiful things that the motives 
of greed and the mean pursuit of money, which 
now weigh upon the world, will be like an evil 
nightmare of the Past from which the dawn 
delivers us. 







AS the author's attacks in the body of this book 
upon the Civih'sation peoples have sometimes been 
regarded as extreme and unjustified, it has been 
thought appropriate, here in the Appendix, to 
collect a few notes from reliable authorities on the 
characteristics and customs of pre-civilised men — not so 
much of course with the object of proving the latter 
always superior to the former, as of bringing to light 
the many admirable virtues of the early peoples, which a 
cheap modern civilisation has neglected or somewhat con- 
temptuously ignored. 

No one would deny that there are many cases of primitive 
folk — folk unclean and ignorant and absurdly superstitious 
— who can hardly be said to command our admiration. 
On the other hand there are a vast number of cases of 
an opposite sort — cases which present to us the realisation 
of some remarkable human characteristic or social capacity 
well worthy of consideration or even of imitation. If our 
Civilisation is ever to move on to some form better than 
the present, it is these latter cases which ought to be of 
assistance ; for they not only direct our attention to human 
possibilities, but by showing what has been realised in the 
past assure us that such ideals are by no means unattainable 

It is therefore with a view to cases of this kind that 
the following Appendix has been framed. 

E. C. 

Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

Civilisation does not Engross all the Virtues. 

Quotations from Herman Melville's Typee, pp. 225, etc. 
(John Murray, 1861.) 

" Civilisation does not engross all the virtues of humanity : 
she has not even her full share of them. They flourish 
in greater abundance and attain greater strength among 
many barbarous people. The hospitality of the wild Arab, 
the courage of the North American Indian, and the faithful 
friendships of some of the Polynesian nations, far surpass 
anything of a similar kind among the polished communities 
of Europe. If truth and justice, and the better principles 
of our nature, cannot exist unless enforced by the statute- 
book, how are we to account for the social condition of 
the Typees ? So pure and upright were they in all the 
relations of life, that entering their valley, as I did, under 
the most erroneous impressions of their character, I was 
soon led to exclaim in amazement : ' Are these the fero- 
cious savages, the bloodthirsty cannibals of whom I have 
heard such frightful tales ! They deal more kindly with 
each other, and are more humane, than many who study 
essays on virtue and benevolence, and who repeat every 
night that beautiful prayer breathed first by the lips of 
the divine and gentle Jesus.' I will frankly declare, that 
after passing a few weeks in this valley of the Marquesas, 
I formed a higher estimate of human nature than I had 
ever before entertained. But alas ! since then I have 
been one of the crew of a man-of war, and the pent-up 
wickedness of five hundred men has nearly overturned all 
my previous theories. 

How little do some of these poor islanders comprehend, 
when they look around them, that no inconsiderable part 



of their disasters originate in certain tea-party excitements, 
under the influence of which benevolent-looking gentlemen 
in white cravats solicit alms, and old ladies in spectacles, 
and young ladies in sober russet low gowns, contribute 
sixpences towards the creation of a fund, the object of 
which is to ameliorate the spiritual condition of the Polyne- 
sians, but whose end has almost invariably been to accomplish 
their temporal destruction I 

" Let the savages be civilised, but civilise them with 
benefits, and not with evils ; and let heathenism be des- 
troyed, but not by destroying the heathen. The Anglo- 
Saxon hive have extirpated Paganism from the greater part 
of the North American continent ; but with it they have 
likewise extirpated the greater portion of the Red race. 
Civilisation is gradually sweeping from the earth the 
lingering vestiges of Paganism, and at the same time the 
shrinking forms of its unhappy worshippers. 

" Among the islands of Polynesia, no sooner are the 
images overturned, the temples demolished, and the idolaters 
converted into nominal Christians, than disease, vice, and 
premature death make their appearance. The depopulated 
land is then recruited from the rapacious hordes of enlightened 
individuals who settle themselves within its borders, and 
clamorously announce the progress of the Truth. Neat 
villas, trim gardens, shaven lawns, spires, and cupolas arise, 
while the poor savage soon finds himself an interloper in 
the country of his fathers, and that too on the very site of 
the hut where he was born. 

" During my whole stay on the island I never witnessed 
a single quarrel, nor any thing that in the slightest degree 
approached even to a dispute. The natives appeared to 
form one household, whose members were bound together 
by the ties of strong affection. The love of kindred I 



Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

did not so much perceive, for it seemed blended in the 
general love ; and v^^here all were treated as brothers and 
sisters, it was hard to tell who were actually related to each 
other by blood. 

" Let it not be supposed that I have overdrawn this 
picture. I have not done so. Nor let it be urged that 
the hostility of this tribe to foreigners, and the hereditary 
feuds they carry on against their fellow-islanders beyond 
the mountains, are facts which contradict me. Not so : 
these apparent discrepancies are easily reconciled. By 
many a legendary tale of violence and wrong, as well as 
by events which have passed before their eyes, these people 
have been taught to look upon white men with abhorrence. 
The cruel invasion of their country by Porter has alone 
furnished them with ample provocation ; and I can sympa- 
thize in the spirit which prompts the Typee warrior to 
guard all the passes to his valley with the point of his levelled 
spear, and, standing upon the beach, with his back turned 
upon his green home, to hold at bay the intruding European." 

Influences of " Civilisation " 

From R. L. Stevenson's In the South Seas, p. 43. (Chatto 
and Windus, 1908.) 

[It is asked] " Was not the Polynesian always unchaste { 
Doubtless he was so always : doubtless he is more so since 
the coming of his remarkably chaste visitors from Europe. 
Take the Hawaiian account of Cook : I have no doubt 
it is entirely fair. Take Krusenstern's candid, almost 
innocent description of a Russian man-of-war at the 
Marquesas ; consider the disgraceful history of missions 
in Hawaii itself . . . add the practice of whaling fleets 
to call at the Marquesas and carry off a complement of 



women for the cruise . . . and bear in mind how it was 
the custom of the adventurers, and we may almost say the 
business of the missionaries, to deride and infract even the 
most salutary tapus (taboos)." 

Captain Cook at Owyhee in 1799 

From his Life and Voyages^ p. 379. (George Newnes, 

" In the progress of the intercourse which was maintained 
between our voyagers and the natives, the quiet and inoffen- 
sive behaviour of the latter took away every apprehension 
of danger, so that the Engh'sh trusted themselves among 
them at all times and in all situations. The instances of 
kindness and civility which our people experienced from 
them were so numerous that they could not easily be re- 
counted. A society of priests, in particular, displayed a 
generosity and munificence of which no equal example 
had hitherto been given : for they furnished a constant 
supply of hogs and vegetables to our navigators, without 
ever demanding a return, or even hinting at it in the most 
distant manner." Of the island of Wateeoo (p. 309), 
" the inhabitants are very numerous, and many of the young 
men were perfect models in shape." 

Natives of Tahiti 

From Havelock Ellis' Sex in relation to Society^ p. 148. 

" The example of Tahiti is instructive as regards the 
prevalence of chastity among peoples of what we generally 
consider low grades of civilisation. An early explorer, 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 11 

J. R. Forster (^Observations made on a voyage round the 
World, 1778), speaks of the fine climate and the beauty 
of the females, as inviting powerfully to the enjoyments 
and pleasures of love. Yet he is over and over again im- 
pelled to set down facts which bear testimony to the virtues 
of these people. Though rather effeminate in build they 
are athletic, he says. Moreover in their wars they fight 
with great bravery and valour. They are, for the rest, 
hospitable. He remarks that they treat their married women 
with great respect, and that women generally are nearly 
the equals of men, both in intelligence and social position ; 
he gives a charming description of the women. ' In short 
their character,' he concludes, ' is as amiable as that of any 
nation that ever came unimproved out of the hands of 
Nature '[!]" . . . 

" When Cook," continues Ellis, " who visited Tahiti 
many times, was among this ' benevolent, humane ' people, 
he noted their esteem for chastity, and found that not only 
were betrothed girls strictly guarded before marriage, but 
that men also who had refrained from sexual intercourse 
for some time before marriage were believed to pass at death 
immediately into the abode of the blessed." 

Radack — one of the Caroline Islands 

From Chamisso's Reise urn die Welt^ p. 183. (Leipzig.) 

" Thus we made acquaintance with a people who have 
endeared themselves to me more than any others of the 
children of Earth. The very weaknesses of the Radack 
folk removed mistrust on our side ; their very gentleness 
and goodness caused them to be trustful towards us, the 
all-powerful strangers ; we became declared friends. I 
found among them simple, unsophisticated manners, charin, 



natural grace, and the pleasant bloom of modesty. In 
the matter, certainly, of strength and manly independence 
the O-Waihier [OwyheesJ are greatly their superiors. 
My friend, Kadu, who, though not belonging to this island- 
group, attached himself to us, was one of the finest characters 
I have ever met and one of the most dear to me of human 
beings ; and he afterwards became my instructor with 
regard to Radack and the Caroline Islands." 

Adaptation of Early Peoples to Surroundings 

The Dinkas (Central Africa) : from Grogan's Cape to 
Cairo, p. 278. (Hurst & Blackett, 1900.) 

" Every one in Dinka-Iand carries a long spear, or 
pointed fish-spear, and a club made of a heavy purple 
wood, while the more important gentlemen wear enormous 
ivory bracelets round their upper arm ; strict nudity is 
the fashion, and a marabout feather in the hair is the 
essence of chic. They are all beautifully built, having 
broad shoulders, small waist, good hips, and well-shaped 
legs. The stature of some is colossal. It was most curious 
to see how these Dinkas, living as they do in the marshes, 
approximate to the type of the waterbird. They have 
much the same walk as a heron, picking their feet up very 
high and thrusting them well forward ; while their feet 
are enormous. Their colossal height is indeed a great 
advantage in the reed grown country in which they live. 
The favourite pose of a Dinka (on one foot, with the 
other foot resting on the knee) is in reality the favourite 
pose of a w^ter bird. . . . They are the complete antithesis 
of the pigmy, as the country in which they live is the 
complete antithesis of the dense forest which is the home 
of the dwarfs. . . . Our camp was near a large village 

273 S 

Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

where there were at least 1,500 head of cattle, besides sheep 
and goats, and the chief brought me a fine fat bull-calf — 
which settled the nervous question of food for two days. . , . 
The rambling village with its groups of figures and long lines 
of home-coming cattle, dimly seen in the smoke of a hundred 
fires as I approached at sunset, was very picturesque." 

The Pigmies : from Cape to Cairo, pp. 144 and 161. 

" The pigmies have no settled villages, nor do they 
cultivate anything. They live the life of the brute in 
the forests, perpetually wandering in search of honey or 
in pursuit of elephant ; v/hen they succeed in killing 
anything, they throw up a few grass shelters and remain 
there till all the meat is either eaten or dried. They 
depend upon the other natives for the necessary grain, 
which they either steal or barter for elephant meat or honey. 
All their knives, spearheads and arrow-heads they likewise 
purchase from other people, but they make their own 
bows and arrows. So well are these made that they are 
held in great esteem by the surrounding people." . . . 
" An hour later I met an elderly pigmy in the forest and 
managed to induce him to talk. He was a splendid little 
fellow, full of self-confidence, and gave me most concise 
information, stating that the white man with many belong- 
ings had passed near by two days before, and had then gone 
down to the lake-shore, where he was camped at that 
moment. These people must have a wonderful code of 
signs and signals, as despite their isolated and nomadic 
existence they always know exactly what is happening 
everywhere. He was a typical pigmy as found on the 
volcanoes — squat, gnarled, proud, and easy of carriage. 
His beard hung down over his chest, and his thighs and 
chest were covered with wiry hair. He carried the usual 
pigmy bow made of two pieces of cane spliced together 



with grass, and with a string made of a single strand of 
a rush that grows in the forests. The pigmies are splendid 
examples of the adaptability of Nature to her surroundings; 
the combination of strength and conciseness enabling them 
to move with astonishing rapidity in the pig-runs that 
form the only pathway through the impenetrable growth, 
and to endure the fatigue of elephant-hunting." 

Natives in Ruanda (near Lake Kivu) : Cape to Cairo, 
p. 1x8. 

" Society in Ruanda is divided into two castes, the 
Watusi and the Wahutu. The Watusi are the descend- 
ants of a great wave of Galla invasion that reached even 
to Tanganyika. They still retain their pastoral instinctf, 
and refuse to do any other work than the tending of cattle ; 
and so great is their affection for their beasts, that rather 
than sever com.pany they will become slaves, and do the 
menial work of their beloved cattle for the benefit of their 
conquerors. This is all the more remarkable when one 
takes into account their inherent pride of race and contempt 
for other peoples, even for the white man. . . . Many 
signs of superior civilisation, observable in the peoples 
with whom the Watusi have come into contact, are traceable 
to this Galla influence. 

" The hills are terraced, thus increasing the area of 
cultivation, and obviating the denudation of fertile slopes 
by torrential rains. In many cases irrigation is carried 
out on a sufficiently extensive scale, and the swamps are 
drained by ditches. Artificial reservoirs are built with side 
troughs for watering cattle. The fields are in many cases 
fenced in by planted hedges of euphorbia and thorn, and 
similar fences are planted along the narrow parts of the 
main cattle tracks, to prevent the beasts from straying or 
trampling down the cultivation. 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

" There is also an exceptional diversity of plants culti- 
vated, such as hungry rice, maize, red and vs^hite millet, 
several kinds of beans, peas, bananas, and the edible arum. 
Some of the higher growing beans are even trained on 
sticks planted for the purpose. Pumpkins and sweet 
potatoes are also common ; and the Watusi own and tend 
enormous herds of cattle, goats and sheep. Owing to the 
magnificent pasturage the milk is of excellent quality, 
and they make large quantities of butter. They are ex- 
ceedingly clever with their beasts, and have many calls 
which the cattle understand. At milking time they light 
smoke-fires to keep the flies from irritating the beasts. . . . 
They are tall slightly built men of graceful nonchalant 
carriage, and their features are delicate and refined. I 
noticed many faces that, bleached and set in a white collar, 
would have been conspicuous for character in a London 
drawing-room. The legal type was especially pro- 
nounced." . . . 

" The Wahutu are their absolute antithesis. They are 
the aborigines of the country, and any pristine originality 
or character has been effectually stamped out of them. 
Hewers of wood and drawers of water, they do all the 
hard work, and unquestioning in abject servility give up 
the proceeds on demand. Their numerical proportion to 
the Watusi must be at least a hundred to one, yet they 
defer to them without protest ; and in spite of the obvious 
hatred in which they hold their over lords, there seems to 
be no friction." 

Natives of the Andaman Islands 

The following extracts, about the Andaman-islanders 
of the Bay of Bengal, the Bushmen of South Africa, and 
the Ebkimo tribes of Northern latitudes, arc specially inter- 



esting because they deal with peoples whose present-day 
culture is undoubtedly on a par with, and in all probability 
directly inherited from, the peoples of a long-past Stone 
Age. Thus we get indirectly a glimpse of what the culture 
of the Stone Ages was — both in its material acquisitions 
and its grade of social and psychological evolution. 

From In the Andamans and Nicobars, p. 1 84, by C. Boden 
Kloss. (Murray, 1903.) 

" The Andaman Islands are inhabited by people of pure 
Negrito blood, members of perhaps the most ancient race 
remaining on the earth, and standing closest to the primitive 
human type. ... It would be impossible to find anywhere 
a race of purer descent than the Andamanese, for ever 
since they peopled the islands in the Stone Age, they have 
remained secluded from the outer world. ... In stature 
they are far below the average height ; but although they 
have been called dwarfs and pygmies, these words must 
not be understood to imply anything in the nature of a 
monstrosity. Their reputation for hideousness, like their 
poisoned arrows and cannibalism, has long been a fallacy 
which, though widely popular, should now be exploded. 
The average heights of the men and women are found to 
be 4 feet lof inches, and 4 feet 7^ inches respectively, 
and their figures, which are proportionately built, are very 
symmetrical and graceful. Although not to be described as 
muscular, they are of good development, the men being 
agile, yet sturdy, with broad chests and square shoulders,'* 

From E. H. Man on The Aborigines of the Andaman Islands^ 
p. 14. (Triibner, 1883.) 

" No idiots, maniacs or lunatics have ever yet been 
observed among them, and this is not because those so 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

afflicted are killed or confined by their fellows, for the 
greatest care and attention are invariably paid to the sick, 
aged and helpless." 

Mr. Man also remarks {^ourn. Anthrop. Inst. XII, 92): 
'■ It has been observed with regret by all interested in the 
race, that intercourse with the alien population has, generally 
speaking, prejudicially affected their morals ; and that the 
candour, veracity, and self-reliance they manifest in their 
savage and untutored state are, when they become asso- 
ciated with foreigners, to a great extent lost, and habits 
of untruthfulness, dependence and sloth engendered." 

The Bushmen 

Extract from F. C. Selous' African Nature-Notes, pp. 344 
and 347. (1908.) 

" When I met with the first Bushmen I ever saw, on 
the banks of the Orange River in 1872, I was a very young 
man, and, regarding them with some repugnance, wrote 
in my diary that they appeared to be removed by a very 
few steps from the brute creation. That was a very foolish 
and ignorant remark to make, and I have since found out 
that though Bushmen may possibly be to-day in the same 
backward state of material development and knowledge as 
once were the palaeolithic ancestors of the most highly 
cultured European races in prehistoric times, yet funda- 
mentally there is very little difference between the natures 
of primitive and civilised men, so that it is quite possible 
for a member of one of the more cultured races to live 
for a time quite happily and contentedly amongst beings 
who are often described as degraded savages, and from whom 
he is separated by thousands of years in all that is implied 
by the word 'civilisation.' I have hunted a great deal 
with Bushmen, and during 1884 I lived amongst these 



people continuously for several months together. On 
many and many a night I have slept in their encampments 
without even any Kafir attendants, and though I was 
entirely in their power I always felt perfectly safe among 
them. As most of the men spoke Sechwana I was able 
to converse with them, and found them very intelligent, 
good-natured companions, full of knowledge concerning the 
habits of all the wild animals inhabiting the country in 
which they lived. ... I have never seen their women 
and children ill-treated by them, and I have seen both the 
men and the women show affection for their children." 

Elsewhere Selous speaks of "John " — a member of the 
close-related Korana clan — who was in his service, as 
" of a pale yellow-brown colour, beautifully proportioned, 
with small delicately made hands and feet." 

From preface by Henry Balfour to the book Bushmen 
Paintings Copied, by Helen Tongue. 

"It is certain that the designs representing animals, etc., 
which are painted upon the walls of their caves and rock- 
shelters, frequently exhibit a realism and freedom in treat- 
ment which are quite remarkable in the art of so primitive 
a people. The skill with which many of the characteristic 
South African animals are portrayed testifies not only to 
unusual artistic efficiency, but also to a close observance 
of and an intimate acquaintanceship with the habits and 
peculiarities of the animals themselves. . . . The paintings 
are remarkable not only for the realism exhibited by so 
many, but also for a freedom from the limitation to delinea- 
tion in profile which characterises for the most part the 
drawings of primitive peoples, especially where animals are 
concerned. Attitudes of a kind difficult to render were 
ventured upon without hesitation, and an appreciation even 
of the rudiments of perspective is occasionally to be noted." 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

Note from the same book, by S. Bleek, daughter of the 
well-known Dr. Bleek, of the Grey Library at Cape 
Town (1870). 

" Bushmen are called liars and thieves all over the Colony, 
but all those who stayed with us were truthful and very 
honest. On no occasion did they steal even a pocket-knife 
lost in the garden, or fruit from the trees. They might 
have taken sheep from hostile farmers, but they would 
never rob a friend or neighbour. They were cleanly in 
their habits, and most particular about manners. ... As 
a people they were grateful and revengeful, independent 
in spirit, excellent fighters — who preferred death to cap- 
tivity. . . . Captives were sometimes made servants, but 
not often well-treated, nor did they take to a settled life 
easily. Even kind masters found their longing for freedom 
hard to conquer." 

The Nechilli Eskimo 

From Amundsen's North West Passage, vol. i, p. 294. 
(Constable, 1908.) 

" We were suddenly brought face to face here with 
a people from the Stone Age : we were abruptly carried 
back several thousand years in the advance of human 
progress, to people who as yet knew no other method of 
procuring fire than by rubbing two pieces of wood together, 
and who with great difficulty managed to get their food 
just lukewarm, over the seal-oil flame on a stone slab, 
while we cooked our food in a moment with our modern 
cooking apparatus. We came here, with our most in- 
genious and most recent inventions in the way of firearms, 
to people who still used lances, bows and arrows of reindeer 
horn. . . However, we should be wrong if from the 



weapons, implements, and domestic appliances of these 
people we were to argue that they were of low intelligence. 
Their implements, apparently so very primitive, proved 
to be as well adapted to their existing requirements and 
conditions as experience and the skilful tests of many 
centuries could have made them." 

Ugpi, an Eskimo 

From Amundsen vol. i, p. 190. 

" Ugpi or Uglen (the ' Owl ') as we always called him, 
attracted immediate attention by his appearance. With his 
long black hair hanging over his shoulders, his dark eyes 
and frank honest expression, he would have been good- 
looking if his broad face and large mouth had not spoilt 
his beauty from a European standpoint. There was 
something serious, almost dreamy, about him. Honesty 
and truthfulness are unmistakably impressed on his features, 
and I would never have hesitated for a moment to entrust 
him with anything. During his association with us he 
became an exceptionally clever hunter both for birds and 
reindeer. He was about thirty years old and was married 
to Kabloka, a very small girl of seventeen." 

Eskimo and Civilisation 

From Amundsen vol. ii, p. 48. 

" During the voyage of the Gjoa^ we came into contact 
with ten different Eskimo tribes in all . . . and I must 
state it as my firm conviction that the Eskimo living abso- 
lutely isolated from civilisation of any kind are undoubtedly 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

the happiest, healthiest, most honorable and most contented 
among them. It must therefore be the bounden duty of 
civilised nations who come into contact with the Eskimo 
to safeguard them against contaminating influences, and 
by laws and stringent regulations protect them against 
the many perils and evils of so-called civilisation. Unless 
this is done they will inevitably be ruined. . . My sincerest 
wish for our friends the Nechilli Eskimo is that Civili- 
sation may never reach them." 

High Standard of Tribal Morality among the Aleoutes 

Witnessed to by the Russian missionary, Veniaminoff. 
See Mutual Atd^ pp. 99 and 100, by P. Kropotkin. 

The high standard of the tribal morality of the Eskimos 
has often been mentioned in general literature. Never- 
theless the following remarks upon the manners of the 
Aleoutes — nearly akin to the Eskimos — will better illustrate 
savage morality as a whole. They were written, after a 
ten years' stay among the Aleoutes, by a most remarkable 
man — the Russian missionary, Veniaminoff. I sum them 
up, mostly in his own words : — 

Endurability (he wrote) is their chief feature. It is 
simply colossal. Not only do they bathe every morning 
in the frozen sea, and stand naked on the beach, inhaling 
the icy wind, but their endurability, even when at hard 
work on insufficient food, surpasses all can be imagined. 
During a protracted scarcity of food, the Aleoute cares 
first for his children ; he gives them all he has, and himself 
fasts. They are not inclined to stealing ; that was remarked 
even by the first Russian immigrants. Not that they 
never steal j every Aleoute would confess having sometime 



stolen something, but it is always a trifle ; the whole is 
so childish. The attachment of the parents to their children 
is touching, though it is never expressed in words or pettings. 
The Aleoute is with difficulty moved to make a promise, 
but once he has made it he will keep it whatever may happen. 
(An Aleoute made VeniaminofF a gift of dried fish, but it 
was forgotten on the beach in the hurry of the departure. 
He took it home. The next occasion to send it to the 
missionary was in January ; and in November and 
December there was a great scarcity of food in the 
Aleoute encampment. But the fish was never touched 
by the starving people, and in January it was sent to 
its destination.) 

Home Life of the Eskimo 

By Villialm Stefannson. F rom Harper s Mo/2th/)\ October, 

Stefansson lived for thirteen months in the household 
of a Chief, Ovaynak, on the IVlackcnzie River, and knew 
his subject well. He says : — 

" With their absolute equality of the sexes and perfect 
freedom of separation, a permanent union of uncongenial 
persons is well-nigh inconceivable. But if a couple find 
each other congenial enough to remain married a year or 
two, divorce becomes exceedingly improbable, and is much 
rarer among the middle-aged than among us. People of 
the age of twenty-five and over are usually very fond of 
each other, and the family — when once it becomes settled 
— appears to be on a higher level of aflFection and mutual 
consideration than is common among us. In an Eskimo 
home I have never heard an unpleasant word between a 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

man and his wife, never seen a child punished, nor an old 
person treated inconsiderately. Yet the household affairs 
are carried on in an orderly way, and the good 
behaviour of the children is remarked by practically 
every traveller. 

" These charming qualities of the Eskimo home may 
be largely due to their equable disposition and the general 
fitness of their character for the communal relations ; 
but it seems reasonable to give a portion of the credit to 
their remarkable social organisation ; for they live under 
conditions for which some of our best men are striving — 
conditions that with our idealists are even yet merely 

Religious Beliefs among the Eskimos 

From Rasmussen's People of the Polar North, pp. 125 and 
127. (1908.) 

" Their religious opinions do not lead them to any sort 
of worship of the supernatural, but consist — if they are to 
be formulated in a creed — of a list of commandments and 
rules of conduct controlling their relations with unknown 
forces hostile to man." 

" A wise and independent thinking Eskimo, Otag the 
Magician, said to me of death : ' You ask, but I know 
nothing of death ; I am only acquainted with life. I 
can only say what I believe : either death is the end of 
life, or else it is the transition into another mode of life. 
In neither case is there anything to fear. Nevertheless I 
do not want to die, because I consider that it is good to 
live.' This calm way of envisaging death is not unusual ; 
I have seen many pagan Eskimos go to meet certain death 
without a trace of fear." 



Periodical Distributions to Obviate Accumulations of 


From Kropotkin's Mutual Aid^ p. 97. (Heinemann, 

" (The Eskimos) have an original means for obviating 
the inconveniences arising from a personal accumulation 
of wealth — which would soon destroy their tribal unity. 
When a man has grown rich he convokes the folk of his 
clan to a great festival, and after much eating, distributes 
among them all his fortune. On the Yukon river Dall 
saw an Aleoute family distributing in this way ten guns, 
ten full fur dresses, two hundred strings of beads, numerous 
blankets, ten wolf furs, two hundred beavers and five 
hundred zibellines. After that they took off their festival 
dresses, and putting on old ragged furs, addressed a few 
words to their kinsfolk, saying that, though they are now 
poorer than any one of them, they have won their friend- 
ship. ^ Like distributions of wealth appear to be a regular 
habit with the Eskimos, and to take place at a certain season, 
after an exhibition of all that has been obtained during the 
year. In my (Kropotkin) opinion, these distributions 
reveal a very old institution, contemporaneous with the 
first apparition of personal wealth ; they must have been 
a means for re-establishing equality among the members 
of the clan, after it had been disturbed by the enrichment 
of the few. The periodical redistribution of land and the 
periodical abandonment of all debts, which took place in 
historical times with so many different races (Semites, 
Aryans, etc.), must have been a survival of that old 

» Dall, Alaska and ils Resources, Cambridge, U.S., 1870. 

Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

The Samoyedes 

From Icebound on the Kolguev^ p. 384, by A, Trevor-Battye, 
(Constable, 1895.) 

" Family affection among the Samoyeds is very strongly 
developed. It would be impossible to find greater evidence 
of this among any people. Another extremely marked 
character among them is family order. All everyday offices 
and occupations are carried out by a well-defined method 
and subdivision of labour. I never saw a single instance 
of anything approaching a family quarrel. , . . They are 
very handy sailors, patient and successful hunters and fisher- 
men, and admirable workmen with such tools as they 
understand. No man can repair a damaged boat more 
quickly than a Samoyed, and from the roughest drift-wood 
(such as an English carpenter would throw on the fire), 
they fashion bows, arrows, sleighs, spoons, drinking- 
cups, bullet-moulds, and a variety of articles of everyday 

The Belle of Kolguev 

From Icebound on the Kolguev, p. 130. 

" Her sister-in-law Ustynia really, if you accept 
the type, a pretty girl. , . . Her eyes were bright, and a 
pleasant smile played about her lips. When she laughed 
— and these people are always laughing — she betrayed the 
most perfectly beautiful teeth it is possible to imagine. 
Indeed all these people, even old Uano, had most wonderful 
teeth — white, regular and perfectly shaped. On her fingers 
Ustynia wore heavy rings of white and yellow metal, 
and her hands, like those of all Samoyeds, were faultless in 



shape and extraordinarily supple. If you add to this a 
dress reaching to the knees, formed of young reindeer 
skin, worked in many stripes of white and brown, the 
skirt banded with scarlet cloth and dogskin fur, and foot 
and leg coverings of soft patterned skin reaching above 
the knee — there you have Ustynia, the belle of Kolguev." 

The Tod as 

Quoted from The Todas^ by W. H. Rivers (1906}. 

These people live on a very lofty and isolated plateau 
of the Nilgiri Hills in South India ; and are especially 
interesting to us because till 1 81 2 "they were absolutely 
unknown to Europeans," and developed their own customs 
untouched by Western civilisation. " They are a purely 
pastoral people, limiting their activities almost entirely to 
the care of their buffaloes and to the complicated ritual 
Vv'hich has grown up in association with these animals." 
(p. 6) . . . They have a completely organised and definite 
system of polyandry. When a v/oman marries a man, it 
is understood that she becomes the wife of his brothers 
at the same time. When a boy is married to a girl, not 
only are his brothers usually regarded as also the husbands 
of the girl, but any brother born later will similarly be 
regarded as sharing his older brother's rights." (p. 515.) 

" The men are strong and very agile ; the agility being 
most in evidence when they have to catch their infuriated 
buffaloes at the funeral ceremonies. They stand fatigue 
well, and often travel great distances. ... In going from 
one part of the hills to another a Toda always travels as 
nearly as possible in a straight line, ignoring altogether 
the influence of gravity, and mounting the steepest hills 
with no apparent effort. In all my work with the men 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

it seemed to me they were extremely intelligent. They 
grasped readily the points of any enquiry on which I entered, 
and often showed a marked appreciation of complicated 
questions. ... I can only record my impression, after 
several months' intercourse with the Todas, that they were 
just as intelligent as one would have found any average 
body of educated Europeans. . . . The characteristic note 
in their demeanour is their absolute belief in their own 
superiority over the surrounding races. They are grave 
and dignified, and yet thoroughly cheerful and well-disposed 
towards all." (pp. 18-23.) 


The Pelew Islands : from J. G. Wood (vol. America^ 
p. 447). See Captain H. Wilson, who was wrecked 
there in 1783. 

" The inhabitants are of a dark copper colour, well- 
made, tall, and remarkable for their stately gait. They 
employ the tattoo in rather a curious manner, pricking the 
patterns thickly on their legs from the ankles to a few 
inches above the knees, so that they look as if their legs 
were darker in colour than the rest of their bodies. They 
are cleanly in their habits, bathing frequently and rubbing 
themselves with coco-nut oil, so as to give a soft and glossy 
appearance to the skin. . . . The men wear no clothing, 
not even the king himself having the least vestige of rai- 
ment, the tattoo being supposed to answer the purposes of 
dress. ... In spite, however, of the absence of dress, the 
deportment of the sexes towards each other is perfectly 
nKjdest. For example, the men and women will not 
bathe at the same spot, nor even go near a bathing place 
of the opposite sex unless it be deserted." 



Natives of the Amazon Region 

Alfred Russell Wallace, in his Travels on the Ama'zon 
(1853), speaks most warmly about the aborigines of that 
district — both as to their grace of form, their quickness 
of hand, and their goodnatured inoffensive disposition. 
He says (chap, xvii) : " Their figures are generally superb ; 
and I have never felt so much pleasure in gazing at the finest 
statue as at these living illustrations of the human form." 
In his My Life^ vol. ii, p. 288, he says : " Their whole 
aspect and manner were different (from the semi-civilised 
tribes) ; they walked with the free step of the independent 
forest-dweller . . original and self-sustaining as the wild 
animals of the forest . . . living their own lives in their 
own way, as they had done for countless generations before 
America was discovered. The true denizen of the Ama- 
zonian forests, like the forest itself, is unique and not to 
be forgotten." 

From The Putumayoj or DeviPs Paradise. By W. E. 
Hardenburg (19 12), 

" The Huitotos are a well-formed race, and although 
small, are stout and strong, with a broad chest and a promi- 
nent bust ; but their limbs, especially the lower, are but 
little developed. . . . That repugnant sight, a protruding 
abdomen, so common among the ' whites ' and half-breeds 
on the Amazon, is very rare among these aborigines. . . . 
Notwithstanding some defects it is not rare to find among 
these women many who are really beautiful — so magnifi- 
cent are their figures, and so free and graceful their move- 
ments." (p. 152). 

*' Unions are considered binding among the Huitotos, 
and it is very rarely that serious disagreements arise between 

289 T 

Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

husband and wife. The women are naturally chaste, and 
it was not till the advent of the rubber collectors that 
they began to lose this primitive virtue — so generally met 
with among people not yet in contact with white men" 

(p. 154). 

[N.B. — These were some of the people so villainously 
tortured — men, women and children — for the collection 
of rubber, by commercial scoundrels, whose atrocities were 
exposed by Roger Casement and others. E.C.J 

Fine Figures and Features of the Dyaks 

Quotations from Beccar's In the Forests of Borneo^ pp. 
325 and 329. (Constable 1904.) 

" On the morning of October 19, as previously arranged, 
Ladja, with eight other Dyaks, came to the fort duly 
equipped for the journey. Ladja was a handsome young 
man, tall like most of his companions, slender, and beauti- 
fully made. His profile was nearly regular, the nose 
perfectly straight, but the cheek bones rather too prominent 
and the chin rather pointed. His complexion was very 
light." ..." Our Arno boatmen in Florence always 
pole where the river is shallow, and use their poles exactly 
as the Dyaks do theirs, only they certainly cannot compare 
with the latter in the length of the journeys thus performed 
with their light canoes. Ours literally flew over the water 
handled with incomparable dexterity by my six young 
savages. There is to my mind no lighter and more 
pleasant mode of progression, and certainly no kind of 
work displays so well the elegant movements and perfect 
proportions of these young Dyaks, who, practically un- 
encumbered with clothing, are truly splendid specimens 
of humanity." 



From Ida Pfeiffer's book Me'me zweite Weltreise^ vol, i, 
p. 1 1 6. (Vienna, 1856.) 

" I must confess that I would gladly have journeyed 
longer among the free Dayaks. I found them wonderfully 
honourable, gentle and modest ; indeed in these respects 
I put them above any people that I have as yet become 
acquainted with. I could leave all my things about, and 
go away for hours together, and never was the least thing 
missing. They begged me occasionally for many an object 
they saw, but immediately gave way when I explained that 
I needed it myself. They were never over-pressing or 
tiresome. It will be said, in denial of this, that the beheading 
of corpses and preservation of skulls does not look exactly 
like gentleness ; but it must be remembered that this sad 
custom is chiefly the result of rude and ignorant superstition. 
I stick to my opinion, and as a further proof, would cite 
their domestic and thoroughly patriarchal mode of life, 
their morals and manners, the love that they have for 
their children, and the respect their children show to 

A Rodiya Boy 

Ernst Haeckel in his Visit to Ceylon^ describes the devo- 
tion to him of his Rodiya serving-boy at Belligam near 
Galle, The keeper of the rest-house there was an old 
man whom Haeckel, from his likeness to a well-known 
head, called by the name of Socrates. And Haeckel con- 
tinues : " It really seemed as though I should be pursued 
by the familiar aspects of classical antiquity from the first 
moment of my arrival at my idyllic home. For as Socrates 
led me up the steps of the open central hall of the rest- 
house, I saw before me, with uplifted arms in an attitude 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

of prayer, a beautiful naked brown figure, which could 
be nothing else than the famous statue of the ' Youth 
Adoring.' How surprised I was when the graceful bronze 
statue suddenly came to life, and dropping his arms fell 
on his knees, and after raising his black eyes imploringly 
to mine bowed his handsome face so low at my feet that 
his long black hair fell on the floor ! Socrates informed 
me that this boy was a Pariah, a member of the lowest 
caste, the Rodiyas, who had lost his parents at an early 
age. He was told off to my exclusive service, and in answer 
to the question what I was to call my new body-servant, 
the old man informed me that his name was Gamameda. 
Of course I immediately thought of Ganymede, for the 
favorite of Jove himself could not have been more finely 
made, or have had limbs more beautifully proportioned 
and moulded. 

" Among the many beautiful figures which move in 
the foreground of my memories of the Paradise of Ceylon, 
Ganymede remains one of my dearest favorites. Not 
only did he fulfil his duties with the greatest attention and 
conscientiousness, but he developed a personal attachment 
and devotion to me which touched me deeply. The poor 
boy, as a miserable outcast of the Rodiya caste, had been 
from his birth the object of the deepest contempt of his 
fellow-men, and subjected to every sort of brutality and 
ill-treatment! He was evidently as much surprised as 
delighted to find me willing to be kind to him from the 
first, ... I owe many beautiful and valuable contributions 
to my museum to Ganymede's unfailing zeal and dexterity. 
With the keen eye, the neat hand, and the supple agility 
of the Cinghalesc youth, he could catch a fluttering moth 
or a gliding fish with equal promptitude ; and his nimble- 
ness was really amazing when, out hunting, he climbed 
the tall trees like a cat, or scrambled through the densest 
jungle to recover the prize I had killed." (p. 200,) 



Second Sight 

Native "diviners" in South Africa, from The Spiritualism 
of the Zulu^ by C. H. Bull, of Durban. 

" Many years ago I was riding transport between Durban 
and the Umzimkulu. I checked my loads at Durban 
and found them correct with the waybill, but when I 
reached my destination I discovered that I was one case 
short, for which I had to pay. On my return to my farm, 
I mentioned the fact to my brother, who proposed, more 
in the spirit of fun than anything else, that we should visit 
a diviner, and endeavour to discover what had become of it. 
I consented, and together we repaired to a native diviner. 
He immediately informed us of the object of our visit, 
although, so far as I can tell, it was morally impossible for 
him to have known it through any ordinary channels, 
and then he went on speaking as though in a dream: ' I 
see a waggon loaded with cases climbing up the Umgwababa 
Hill ; there has been a lot of rain and the roads are slippery. 
Half way up the hill the rains have washed a gully ; into 
this the waggon lurches, displacing a small case, which 
falls to the ground, but the driver, who is busy urging his 
team up the hill, does not notice it. Now the waggon 
has passed out of sight, but I see a Kaffir coming up the hill. 
When he reaches the spot where the case is lying, he stops 
for a few moments to examine it, and then proceeds to 
the top of the hill, where he stands for a few moments 
shading his eyes with his hand, as though looking beyond. 
Now he returns to where the case is lying, and lifting it 
up, crosses the road, and pushing his way through some 
tall tambootie grass, he reaches a large indonie tree ; under 
the tree there is a stunted clump of wild bananas. He places 
the case in the centre of the clump, and after concealing it 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

with some of the dry leaves, he goes on his way. The 
case is still there.' 

" Though wholly incredulous of the truth of the vision, 
I sent two ' boys ' to the spot indicated, and they returned 
bringing with them the lost case, having found it exactly 
where the diviner said that he saw it." 

The Zulus 

The Zulus : Quotations from General Sir W. Butler's 
Naboth's Fineyardy p. 263 (given in Blyden's African 
Life and Customs, p. 43). 

"In all the sad history of South Africa few things are 
sadder than the Zulu question. Where the Zulu came 
(in those days), no lock or key were necessary. No man 
who knew the Zulu — not even the white colonist, whose 
rage was largely the result of his being unable to get servile 
labour from him — could say that he had not found the 
Zulu honest, truthful, faithful ; that the white wife and 
child had not been entirely safe from insult or harm at 
the hands of this black man ; or that money and property 
were not immeasurably more secure in Zulu charge than 
in that of Europeans or Asiatics." 

From Blyden's African Life and Customs, p. 37. 

" There are to-day hundreds of so-called civilised Africans 
who are coming back to themselves. They have grasped 
the principles underlying the European social and economic 
order and reject them as not equal to their own as means 
of making adequate provision for the normal needs of all 
members of society both present and future — from birth 
all through life to death. They have discovered all the 



waste places, all the nakedness of the European system, 
both by reading and travel. The great wealth can no 
longer dazzle them, or conceal from their view the vast 
masses of the population living under what they once 
supposed to be the ideal system — who are of no earthly 
use to themselves or to others. . . . Under the African 
system of communal property and co-operative effort, every 
member of a community has a home and a sufficiency of 
food and clothing and other necessaries of life — and for 
life ; and his children after him have the same advantages. 
In this system there is no workhouse and no necessity for 
such an arrangement." 


From Wallace's Malay Archipelago^ p. 336. (i 894 edition.) 

" This motley, ignorant, bloodthirsty, thievish popu- 
lation (Papuans, Javanese, Chinese, etc.), live here without 
the shadow of a government, with no police, no courts, 
and no lawyers ; yet they do not cut each other's throats ; 
do not plunder each other day and night ; do not fall into 
the anarchy such a state of things might be supposed to 
lead to. It is very extraordinary ! It puts strange thoughts 
into one's head about the mountain-load of government 
under which people exist in Europe, and suggests the idea 
that we may be over-governed. Think of the hundred 
Acts of Parliament annually enacted to prevent us, the 
people of England, from cutting each other's throats, or 
from doing to our neighbours as we would not be done by. 
Think of the thousands of lawyers and barristers whose 
whole lives are spent in telling us what the hundred Acts 
of Parliament mean, and one would be led to infer that 
if Dobbo has too little law England has too much." 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

Society without Government 

From Morley's Rousseau^ vol. ii, p. 227, note. (Eversley 
edition, 19 10.) 

" Jefferson, who was American minister in France from 
1784 to 1789, and absorbed a great many of the ideas 
then afloat, writes in words that seem as if they were 
borrowed from Rousseau : ' I am convinced that those 
societies (as the Indians), which live without government, 
enjoy in their general mass an infinitely greater degree 
of happiness than those who live under European govern- 
ments. Among the former public opinion is in the state of 
law, and restrains morals as powerfully as laws ever did any- 
where. Among the latter, under pretence of government, 
they have divided the nation into two classes, wolves and 
sheep, I do not exaggerate ; this is a true picture of 
Europe.' " (From Tucker's Life ofjeffersoriy vol. i, p. 255.) 

Security without Government 

From Tafilet^y p. 353. By W. B. Harris. (Blackwood, 1895.) 

" The Moors have a proverb, and it is a very true one, 
that safety and security can only be found in the districts 
where there is no government — that is to say, where the 
government is a tribal one," 

Degradation through " Civilisation ** 

From The Spiritualism oj the Zulu. By C. H. Bull, or 

** Thirty-two years ago, I lived for some time in a district 
in Natal, then thickly populated with natives, still con- 



forming to the primitive customs of their race, yet honest, 
manly and intelligent people, with very definite ideas in 
regard to moral questions. After an absence of thirty 
years, just prior to my sailing for England, I again visited 
the district and was amazed to observe the change which 
had taken place in the people ; their habits, characters and 
physique. Sordid poverty, dressed in mean rags or tawdry 
finery, suggestive of service to vice, had displaced the old 
dignity, born of conscious physical strength and symmetry 
of form, which once, though attired only in the trappings 
that simple art could devise from the rough products ot 
nature, was characteristic ; whilst drunkenness, dishonesty 
and immorality sought shelter under the meagre cloaks 
of the religion dispensed by the different sections of belief, 
established in the little iron, or wattle and daub churches, 
which everywhere disfigured the country side. The 
change was complete and deplorable, nor were the natives 
unconscious of their degradation, or without regret for 
the passing of the old days." 


From Waltz's Anthropologic der Naturvolker, vol. ii, p. 281, 
(Leipzig, i860.) 

" One finds that the fate of Slaves among the ruder 
peoples is much happier than among the civilised ; indeed 
it seems to grow worse and worse in proportion to the 
civilisation of the ruling folk. Strange and incredible as 
at first sight this seems, the following facts establish it 
beyond doubt. And indeed it is not difficult to explain. 
The chief reason is that with the increase of merely 
material culture^ Time and Labour-force are more and 
more prized, and consequently always more violently and 


Civilisation : Its Cause and Cure 

unscrupulously exploited, while on the contrary among 
primitive people in general a lesser value is placed on 
these things." 

The Fraud of Western Civilisation 

Extract from " A Letter to a Chinese Gentleman," by 
Leo Tolstoy. (Published in Saturday Review^ Decem- 
ber I, 1906.) 

" Amongst all these Western nations there unceasingly 
proceeds a strife between the destitute exasperated working 
people and the government and wealthy, a strife which is 
restrained only by coercion on the part of deceived men 
who constitute the army ; a similar strife is continually 
waging between the different states demanding endlessly 
increasing armaments, a strife which is any moment ready 
to plunge into the greatest catastrophes. But however 
dreadful this state of things may be, it does not constitute 
the essence of the calamity of the Western nations. Their 
chief and fundamental calamity is that the whole life of 
these nations who are unable to furnish themselves with 
food is entirely based on the necessity of procuring means 
of sustenance by violence and cunning from other nations, 
who like China, India, Russia and others still preserve a 
rational agricultural life. 

" Constitutions, protective tariffs, standing armies, all 
this together has rendered the Western nations what they 
are — people who have abandoned agriculture and become 
unused to it, occupied in towns and factories in the production 
of articles for the most part unnecessary, people who with 
their armies are adapted only to every kind of violence 
and robbery. However brilliant their position may appear 
at first sight it is a desperate one, and they must inevitably 
perish if they do not change the whole structure of their 



life founded as it now is on deceit and the plunder and 
pillage of the agricultural nations." 

From O'Brien's White Shadows in the South Seas. (New 
York, 1 91 9.) 

" A hundred years ago there were 160,000 Marquesans 
in these [South Sea] Islands. To-day their total number 
does not reach 2,100." O'Brien describes the bad effects 
of Christianity on these "savages." For he says the so- 
called superstitions of these races had a great vitalising 
influence. Their dancing, their tattooing, their religious 
rites, their chanting and their warfare gave them a zest in 
life. But " to-day all Polynesians from Hawaii to Tahiti 
are dying because of the suppression of the play-instinct 
that had its expression in most of their customs and 
occupations." And they are now " nothing but joyless 
machines " and " tired of life." 

Failure of Our Civilisation 

For a searching comparison between our social conditions 
and those of the many savage communities visited by him 
— and much to the general advantage of the latter — see 
A. R. Wallace's Malay Archipelago (ist ed. 1869), pp. 
456, 7 (ed. 1894). And he ends the book by saying : 

" Until there is a more general recognition of this failure 
of our civilisation — resulting mainly from our neglect to 
train and develop more thoroughly the sympathetic feelings 
and moral faculties of our nature, and to allow them a 
larger share of influence in our legislation, our commerce, 
and our whole social organisation — we shall never, as 
regards the whole community, attain to any real or import- 
ant superiority over the better class of savages. This is 
the lesson I have been taught by my observations of un- 
civilised man. 

" I now bid my readers — Farewell ! " 

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